Building forms quickly using third party tools?
Forms are an important element of a lot of frontends. Often simpler websites are all about making customers fill up some kind of form. But a good form design is also complex and error prone. Bad forms frustrate users and drive customers away. In this article we tell you how you should approac the problem of form design by outsourcing it to specialized tools.
For majority of large scale applications you have no choice but to build your own form solution. This is because you want to give a seemless experience to your users which blends well with rest of your app features, you do not want to pay more per extra user who fills up your form and you need complete flexibility over your data storage. After all, once you have built a form, scaling to few thousand or even million users is lot less complicated and very cheap. In this article we will not tell you about this approach. We would rather focus on the simpler use cases where you need to build something quick but high quality.
There are many tools in market such as jotforms, Formaloo and Google Forms that allow you to design very good forms and one of the heavily used tools in the market. Some of them are paid and expensive but also extremely feature rich and allow a lot of features.
These companies have built forms that are used by millions of users every single day. Which means they understand an average user extremely well and know how to make forms interesting and less frustrating.
They will follow all the best practices, help valdiate forms in the best possible away and give excellent user experience for 99% of the cases.
Whether you are a school teacher or a small business owner, you do not have time to learn to code to design a form that lets your users enter few fields. These form builders will provide you with thousands of ready made templates that suite nearly all the usecases of most people so you can have a great looking form in matter of minutes.
These tools also understand common ways how people use forms in their websites. When someone fills up a form you want to receive an email, or you want that form data to go through an approval flow or you want to email users a receipt and so on. All this is complex to code yourself but these tools provide you very easy approaval flow control.
How do I validate an email address ? How do I build a file upload field that only allows upload of PDFs ? Internet is flooded with such questions as programmers continue to reinvent the wheeel thousand times over. However using tools like JotForms or Formaloo will allow you to have industry best practices for all sort of complex validations and error displays.
Jotforms is one of the most popular form builders. It not only builds forms but also has excellent approval flow designer with ability to design really complex flows around how the filled up data moves around your system. It has very good integrations with all major app platforms such as google sheets, salesforce, linkedin etc.
Th downside of jotforms is that it is very expensive beyond very basic usecases. Hosting forms on your custom domain requires plans that run into hundreds of dollars.
Jobforms also has an apps feature where you can build a very basic app that servers as a container for your form. This is ideal for small businesses like restaurants, event managers etc. to quickly build simple websites.
Overall I recommend this system if you want to build quick proof of concepts of your business or if you do not have any need to scale beyond few hundred users a month. Also, it is an excellent choice for businesses where their costs are justifiable.
One of the most popular and mostly free alternative. Google forms are very expressive, handle a lot of cases and dump the filled up data in google spreadsheets where you can process them later. Google forms is also one of the simplest tool to master and heavily used by schools and colleges. It also have brilliant accessibility support so if you are considering it for your special needs users you can be rest assured that it will work well.
The downside however is that there is limited control on look and feel. It is also not designed for large file uploads and third party integration support is very limited.
Survey Monkey as the name suggests is primarily designed for surveys and is focused on making the boring job of filling up surveys as painless as possible. However it is not a great tool if you wish to design other kind of froms.
Formaloo is a perfect alternative to Jotforms and appears to have near perfect feature parity with jotforms. It allows you to design very good forms, create business flows based on that and also design basic apps using their provided templates.
If you are building a new product, relying on these tools for your MVP is a much effective way of saving time and focusing on core functionality. I have helped many people setup their business using just these tools and with their free plans for years before they had revenues to justify building something bespoke.
Do not spend too much time perfecting these forms right away. Start small and then experiment to see what works better. Since it is easier to build forms the cost of redesigning later is very low.
Since cost of making a new form is very less, it makes sense to try different forms with your users and see what works better.
Just because these tools make it easier to design a form, avoid complex forms and too many fields. Make sure the forms are short.
Nearly all these solutions are meant for 100-10,000 users a month. If you have more users filling up forms consider building your own tool as the costs will not scale beyond these numbers unless you are really profitable.
Do consider these tools before you build your own form. They are valuable and should be considered even if you are more than capable of writing your code. There are indeed cases where you should not use them at all, but for most users those are not applicable.
Need help building small business website ? You can always reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help you get started.