Regardless of what type of business you run, at some point, it will be necessary to collect some type of data from your clients and staff, sometimes a variety of different types of data. Collecting information can mean the difference between success and failure for any organization in the Information Age, and doing so online is one of the simplest methods. Customers and employees both have valuable information that can be used to improve the organization’s workflow and service, and this information should be collected and analyzed on a regular basis for the purpose of making managerial decisions. Although there are numerous online services that will enable you to create surveys, information gathering forms, and other data collection methods, you want to choose one that will save you time by not distracting or confusing you with fancy templates you will never use or with a confusing user interface.
Where To Begin?
If you have never used a form building service before, the first thing you should know is that they operate similarly to word processors. As with your favorite word processor, they offer a variety of features, some of which may be necessary for your data collection process. Some services enable data export to Excel spreadsheets or PDFs, while others enable features such as “choice elimination” in surveys, in which a choice is selected for one answer and then removed to avoid repetition in subsequent responses.
Ideally, you will want to select a service that supports a range of response types, from multiple choice to free text input. You should be able to indicate which choices are optional and which can be rated on a Likert scale if necessary. Depending on how the data will be used, some basic data analytics features are useful, particularly those that summarize responses into graphs or charts for analysis. The service should be simple to use and customizable, with robust analytics and easy distribution to respondents.
Choosing a service can be difficult if you are unfamiliar with the available options. Therefore, if you are looking for a place to start, consider these six top picks.
Top Form Builders in 2021
1) Jotform is the service to use if you have little to no experience building forms and want to use a powerful and versatile template. While other services offer templates as well, Jotform’s are more customizable, with over 10,000 available for a wide variety of needs. Whereas other services require a premium upgrade to collect money or signatures, Jotform’s free version includes these features.
This service has so many pre-built templates that almost any venture can easily find one, ranging from nonprofit volunteer forms to medical intake forms, only a few of which require extensive editing or customization. Additionally, you can start from scratch with a blank template to create the one you require.
2) Google Forms is a good place to start if you are not opposed to creating your own forms or modifying some of the more generic templates available. It is completely free and accessible to anyone with a Google account, and it includes an auto-save feature that saves your work as you go along. Multiple response types, such as multiple choice or free form text, are available in the same form, and Google Forms add-ons enable you to add additional features as needed. This is a service for individuals who do not require a large number of templates or are willing to spend some time creating the form they require from scratch. Additionally, this service allows for the export of data to an Excel spreadsheet.
3) If sensitive information must be protected, Formsite is the service to use. This service enables the encryption of data, either for the entire form or for individual fields, and unauthorized individuals attempting to see the information will only see scrambled data if they have proper access authority. Furthermore, Formsite includes several useful features, such as hidden responses and payment processing integration with Paypal and Stripe. Additionally, credit card payments can be accepted directly through encrypted fields in the form itself.
Another useful feature of Formsite is its ability to reuse data and form blocks, as well as to link multiple forms together, so that respondents do not have to enter the same information multiple times, but rather have their data linked across several forms. The service integrates with Zapier, a platform that enables the integration of multiple web-based services, including data sharing between them.
4) Paperform is the best option if your form is not about data collection but rather about taking orders or gathering other client purchasing information. Paperform’s templates are intentionally designed to resemble blog posts or product landing pages, rather than surveys or quizzes. Unlike some other services, this one allows you to upload images, videos, and text to describe your product, and its analytics features collect user data in the background, which can be used to create targeted marketing campaigns. Additionally, this service supports inventory management and product catalogs, which makes it ideal for online business interactions such as restaurant ordering pages or online retail space.
5) Formstack is the service to use if your data collection will include a significant amount of analytics. Along with ensuring secure data collection, many of Formstack’s templates are compliant with industry regulations such as HIPAA. The service will notify you if a form does not comply with certain requirements, such as compliance with assistive technology, allowing the form creator to be aware in advance if the form he is designing will be inaccessible to certain clients. Formstack also includes some robust analytic tools that enable creators to see which forms are being used the most, which forms are being filled out completely, and which forms are not being filled out at all. It also integrates with Zapier.
6) Cognito Forms is similar to Google Forms, though a more powerful version, in that it provides several customizable templates and also integrates with Paypal, Stripe, and Zapier, which Google Forms does not. Users can create their own forms from scratch or use pre-built templates, but what distinguishes Cognito forms from other services is that it is completely free for individuals, with up to 100 GB of storage and unlimited forms included in the free option. Many other services limit their free users to a certain number of forms per month, typically five. A premium subscription is required if you wish to create more than the free number of forms.
Pick The Best Form Service For Your Needs
While individual or professional needs vary, many users find that the ability to accept payments and integrate with Zapier, which enables data sharing between web applications, is beneficial when collecting user data. In some cases, it may be necessary to utilize multiple services for various data collection purposes, and utilizing services that integrate with Zapier simplifies this process. Access to forms that already comply with certain required standards, particularly regarding user privacy, is a bonus for certain types of businesses.
The first thing to do when considering what form service to use is to do a concerted evaluation of your needs, which will give you a clear indication of what features you will require from your form service. With these needs in mind, construct a rough draft of the form either on paper or a word processor, which will then give you an idea of what features you will require in order to construct the form you need. Come up with a list of these features, and begin comparing the various services mentioned here, and others if needed, to determine which service meets your requirements and budget. Once you have decided on a service, first create a test form and have testers try it out, which will help you identify any bugs or limitations that were previously unforeseen. It is this stage in the process that you might discover that the service you have chosen does not quite do what you need it to do. Finally, once you have a working test form, you can then go about creating your actual form.
Each of these services offers distinctive and appealing features, and some trial and error will almost certainly be required before settling on the service that is best for you and your organization.