The Ultimate Guide to Building Online Forms with Wufoo

Here, here, to our newest member of the wu-fam! With your Wufoo account all set up, you’ve put yourself in […]

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By: Jonathan Gitlin

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The Ultimate Guide to Building Online Forms with Wufoo

Here, here, to our newest member of the wu-fam!

With your Wufoo account all set up, you’ve put yourself in prime position to collect online orders, register people for upcoming events, collect leads, and more.

But before you embark on your exciting journey with us, you’ll need to learn the ins and outs of online forms—whether it’s building them, sending them, or analyzing their completions.  

We’ll review each of these areas and include tips and tricks for completing them on Wufoo. But first, let’s review what online forms are and why they’re so valuable.

A brief breakdown of online forms

Online forms are simply a web page that allows you to capture a variety of information from individuals—depending on the fields you use.

Like a more old-school paper form, the online version typically asks respondents for background information (i.e. full name, email, address, etc.), in addition to things that are specific to the purposes of that form.

The similarities between online forms and paper forms, however, largely end there. With the former, individuals can complete the form in a matter of clicks; while the latter may involve printing the form out, completing it, and then mailing it back. An online form-building tool, like Wufoo, also lets you collect completions in real time, and gives you analysis tools to dig into your data further (more to come on this later in the guide). This automated collection of completions and in-depth analysis allows you to get the most out of your data, faster.

Pumped about building your online form? We’re excited for you! So let’s get the form-building express chugging right along by talking about the first step in creating your form: coming up with its objective.

How to come up with a rockstar goal for your form

A great goal is direct, concise (think 1-2 sentences), and should be developed before you start building your form.

Having a goal you can reference back to can prove useful when prioritizing the fields you include, and when evaluating your form’s performance.

So without further ado, here’s the basic framework for coming up with an effective goal:

1. Collaborate on your goal.

Imagine that some colleagues, friends, or family members are happy with the data that’s come back while others aren’t.

The situation can make certain people feel neglected, and can even lead them to build out and send a new form so they can get what they need.

Don’t let this happen to you! Making the relevant stakeholders happy about the results—and eager to use them—starts by taking their views into account when coming up with your goal.  

Sure, you can’t incorporate everyone’s opinion, but if you provide a forum that allows their voices to be heard, they’ll at least feel appreciated and listened to.

2. Keep your goal specific.

Otherwise, it can be difficult to assess your form’s performance.

For example, say you want to use a form to drive orders for a specific product.  

A generic goal, like: “We want the form to increase sales.” can lead you to measure its performance subjectively and not hold it accountable to delivering what you really need.

To evaluate how it does in more concrete terms, you’ll want to (using our example above)  specify the product you’re selling, how much of it you hope to sell, and who you hope to sell it to. Including these elements can give you the following goal:

“We want the form to increase sales of X product by Y units to our Z customer group.”

3. Make your goal realistic.

A goal that’s too lofty or not aggressive enough doesn’t give it a fair chance to meet your expectations.

To come up with a reasonable goal, take a look at the audience you’re sending it too. How engaged with your organization are they? In addition, how many people will you be sharing your form with? The answers to these questions can clue you in on how many completions your form can drive. In addition, if you’ve run at least semi-similar forms in the past, see how they’ve performed—as they too can indicate how your form will do.

The nuts and bolts of building a great form

Now that you know how to come up with a clear, direct goal for your form, you’re almost ready to build it!

Before you do, let’s review each of the items you can use on your form and how to use them effectively:

The title

This component is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the first thing your form takers see when they open your form and it’s included in your URL—should you share the form as a weblink.

Words to the wise:

  • Keep it short (no more than a few words).
  • The title should be general enough so that it encompasses all of the fields below, but specific enough so that those taking it immediately know what it’s about.

The description

It appears right below the title, and it gives you the chance to talk about the purpose of your form and/or offer instructions for how to fill it out.

Words to the wise:

  • Only include a description when you feel like the form itself isn’t self-explanatory.
  • Keep the description within 1-2 sentences so that it doesn’t overwhelm the form taker.

The field label

The labels make up the bulk of your form. They’re the components that your form taker fills out, whether it’s writing in their own answer, checking off a box, or selecting a choice from a drop down.

Our “Standard” and “Fancy Pants” sections host a ton of different fields you can use. Some are pretty clear, like “Name.” But if there are any you’re unsure of, you can drag them over to your form and click “View Form” to preview how they look and to better understand how they work.

Words to the wise:

  • Include the minimum number of fields it takes to get the data you need. Form takers want to take a short form—and may drop out if it’s too long.
  • Start by using the most straightforward fields, like ”Name”, “Date”, and “Address”, so that you give form takers a chance to warm up.
  • Limit the number of fields that take a longer time to complete, such as “Paragraph Text” and “Single Line Text”, and put these fields closer to the end.

The theme

When we say “themes”, we’re referring to the look and feel of your form—its background color, font type, etc.

By default, you’ve got a snazzy looking form thanks to our new theme, Newfangled. But you can customize it to better match your brand with our theme designer.

To see the impact themes can have, check out these identical forms with the exception of their theme (the left uses a customized theme while the right uses the default theme):

You have 2 options for applying a theme,:

1. You can use one of our custom-built and ready to use themes.

2. You can design your very own custom theme either in Wufoo or by using custom CSS.

Words to the wise:

  • Use the theme designer when your audience is extra sensitive about data security. Displaying your brand elements on the form (particularly your logo) tells your audience that the form is, in fact, sent by your organization, which can put them at ease.
  • Customizing the colors, buttons, etc. can help your form appear more straightforward and fun —leading to a higher completion rate.

Wait! Before sending your form, integrate Wufoo with the other tools you already use

Why set up the integrations before you share your form? Because then there won’t be a major time lag between when the responses come in and when your team can see and use the data!

For some quick background, our integrations let your form data be readily accessible in the places you and your team normally work on, whether it’s your customer relationship management (CRM) tool or your email marketing platform. We’ve even integrated with online payment gateways (think Stripe or Square) so you can get paid directly on your form! To learn more about our integrations, visit our integrations directory page.

Ready for liftoff! Let’s share your form with the world

Finally, you’re ready to send your form! But how, exactly, would you do so? First, you need to get the link to your form, which you can access by clicking “Share Form.”

Then comes the harder decision: choosing the way(s) to share it. Let’s walk through all of your options and review their respective pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision.

1. Share your form by email.

This approach is one of the most popular among wu-fans who use their form to collect survey and feedback data.

It allows you to share your form with specific individuals by sending it right to their inbox. It gives you the chance to reach recipients with ease, and giving them the opportunity to fill it out when they have a few minutes on their hands. If you use an email marketing tool (e.g. MailChimp), it becomes even easier to send email to the masses, pointing them straight to your form.

On the flip side, using an email isn’t always the best idea.

Your team will need to put the time and effort into creating a catchy and explanatory subject line for the email. Otherwise, your audience can easily ignore your form. A few words to the wise: make sure that your team has the bandwidth to review and act on the data that returns before you send your form. If you’re unsure, you may want to start by sending to your form to a smaller subset of people to gauge your response rates before opening it up to the masses.

Pro tip: Send respondents a confirmation email that lets them know you’ve received their responses, and that you’re grateful they took the time to fill out your form. Every bit of follow up shows your form takers that you care about them and value their time.

2. Share your form on social media.

Is your audience socially inclined? We aren’t talking about being social in a face-to-face setting, but rather if they’re active on social platforms, like Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter.

If the answer is yes, then consider sharing your form in the social channel(s) they use.

In case you need more convincing, consider that people who use social media, are on it A LOT. This means that sharing your form across social channels gives you a high chance of bringing awareness to it and getting more completions.

But like emails, social sharing has its flaws. Not everybody uses social media—with older adults being less likely to use it. And unlike emails, social posts aren’t guaranteed to reach your audience directly. So if possible, share your form via email or embed it on a web page in addition to sharing it on social.

Pro tip: Help your form spread to a larger audience across social by including sharing buttons on its confirmation page (the page they see once your form is submitted).

3. Embed your form on your website.

Looking for feedback on a specific webpage? Want people to fill something out before they access a valuable resource? Or just hoping for feedback in general?

Accomplish any of the above by embedding your form on a specific webpage.

The embed option works great in that once it’s set up, you don’t have to worry about re-sending your form. It will collect responses over time, automatically.

Remember to update the form once certain fields become irrelevant and no longer useful. Otherwise, you’ll collect less valuable data and confuse your form takers.

Learn more about your sharing options by visiting our help center page!

Did the responses come back? Let’s put them to use!

Here are the 2 ways to analyze your data in and outside of Wufoo:

1. Create report(s) to highlight the results and to present the key findings.

Reports let you slice and dice the data so you can better interpret the results and act on them effectively.

How do you build reports? I’m glad you asked!

Once you’re logged into your account, you’ll see a “Report” section. After clicking it, you can either create a new report or edit/delete/duplicate pre-existing ones.

When building your report, you’ll need to complete 4 sections:

  • Report Settings gives you a chance to name the report and provide a description for it.
  • Select Data allows you to filter the completions by entry information and fields.
  • Add Widgets lets you decide which graphics you want to use to display the data—with the options being graphs, charts, numbers, text, and datagrids. You’ll also be able to choose the report’s layout in this section.
  • Widget settings offers you the chance to customize the text and layout of each graphic you’ve included.

The report preview updates in real-time, based on any edits to the sections above. And once you’ve built it, it can look something like this:

satisfaction survey report

Note: You can share the report directly with others, embed it on a webpage, and/or export the data from it.

2. Export the results straight away so you can analyze the data on your platform of choice.

Some like to use Excel (or other spreadsheet software) when analyzing their results; others prefer a more sophisticated numbers-crunching software. Whichever you prefer, export your data and analyze it there.

And that’s a wrap! By using these tips and tricks in building your forms, sending them, and analyzing their completions, you’ll be well on your way to getting everything you want from them—and then some.

So go forth and prosper, wu-fan. We’ll be rooting for you.