The Form Builder’s Guide: Getting Started with Your First Digital Form

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When building your first form, it may seem a little daunting - the best platforms have a lot of options, and it might be difficult to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide to getting started in the world of building your own digital forms.

What Platform or Tool Should I Use?

Possibly the biggest question you can ask is which platform to use to get started in the first place. The most important thing you can do is research your options and make sure you find a form-building platform that covers all your needs. If you’re starting here, check out our Mobile Forms Buyer’s Guide to see an in-depth look at how to choose the best platform for you.

When researching different tools, always start with an internal audit of all the features you know you need, and remember you can add more to this list later. While you may not currently know all the features that digital form builders offer, you will know if you need electronic signatures, HIPAA-secure configuration options, or integrations with your CRM or project management tools. Keep a checklist on hand while you explore different providers, and when you see new features that sound like a nice addition to your workflow, add those to the list.

How Can I Structure My Form?

The actual look and feel of your form will vary depending on what you need, and your individual use cases. Keep in mind that not all your forms may look the same or incorporate the same features, as each form has its own unique purpose. A great place to start is with the paper forms you already have, and the top-tier digital forms builders will offer a way to upload those forms so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Digital Form Building Features

Whether you decide on a platform that allows you to upload your existing forms or not, choosing a provider that offers the ability to design the layout of your form can help you keep a consistent look and feel for your customers, while also promoting your branding and allowing your business to maintain any required document formatting (e.g. government forms). These types of form builders can range from simple image or logo uploads all the way to adding new design elements and color schemes.

Ask For Help When You Need It

Digital form builders can be a large undertaking, especially if you’re just making the switch away from paper. Before even committing to a digital form-building platform, take some time to explore and learn the different options you have. How user-friendly is the system? If it’s not entirely intuitive, does the company provide additional resources like help documentation and guides to get started? These can be great indicators of the type of support you can expect after deciding to make a purchase.

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What Form Fields and Data Points Should I Include?

Figuring out the content of your digital form can be tricky, but a lot of the difficulty will vary depending on where you’re starting from. This might be specific questions for surveys and intake forms, or it could be customer or project information needed. In many cases, businesses and individuals will have a paper form they’re looking to digitize, but it’s not uncommon for people to start entirely from scratch.

If You’re Starting with an Existing Form

If you already have a form and you know what information you need to capture, look for a way to keep your digital form as close to your paper form as possible. The best online form builders will have a way for you to simply upload an image of your existing form to get started, but if your platform doesn’t, you can still build out your digital form to match. Keeping the forms the same will ensure familiarity for your users, meaning you can lessen the slope of your learning curve. Additionally, when starting with an existing form, you’ll have a blueprint for what type of data capture points you need, from short-form text, to check boxes, to electronic signatures.

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If You’re Starting From Scratch

Starting from scratch gives you limitless possibilities, but it can also feel intimidating in the early stages of building your digital form. One of the first things you should focus on is what information you need to have from people filling out the form. If you’re building a form for your business, keep things like identifying customer or project information in mind, as well as what work is being performed, or which goods are being sold. You can continue from there to include calculations and other details such as hourly labor costs or sales tax for invoices.

How Should I Structure the Form?

The form’s layout and organization should be directly tied to your user experience. Some things you may want to consider are how the questions flow logically, and if there are places where you’d like the user to add more detail or information. The best digital form-building platforms will also make sure you have control over how many questions you have per page, or if you’d like to allow users to skip questions or pages based on previous answers.

Don’t shy away from keeping your form visually appealing as well. If your form builder allows it, try adding images, keep consistent fonts and phrasing, and tie in your brand colors and imagery wherever you can. Keep in mind that you also want to ensure an easy form-filling experience, so while a few visual assets can accentuate your form, too many can be distracting. For your users filling out forms on mobile devices, look for a digital forms platform that supports a mobile-optimized view, which will remove many of the visual assets to keep a clean, small-screen-friendly look for your users.

How Do I Ensure Data Privacy and Security?

In a world where we see continued issues with data privacy, database breaches, and scammers across every device, you need to ensure that your form data is secure. While you can manage a lot of this with the questions that you ask (e.g. trying to minimize the personal information you capture to only what is essential) in many cases this just comes down to the form builder you choose.

The best form-building platforms will give you options on security, and be transparent about their data encryption processes. They’ll also give you full control over ways that you can store your form data on your own Cloud storage platforms, ensuring that you always have secure access to your form data. Top-tier digital forms platforms will also offer different ways that you can protect your form data, from variable user permissions, to user groups, to public forms versus forms only available to those in your organization, and even offer custom security settings, like HIPAA-secure settings to manage compliance adherence.

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What Happens to the Data Once It’s Captured?

One of the greatest benefits of using digital forms is being able to customize where your data ends up. Using an online form builder gives you the flexibility to send your data to any number of places, from Cloud storage to existing ERP or CRM platforms.

When building your forms online, you can set up automations that can transfer your digital data anywhere you need it, but you also have the ability to pull that data into other forms. For example, if you’re using a full-featured digital forms platform, you should be able to pull information directly from your digital work orders into your digital invoices. Together this can save your team time from manual re-entry, while also optimizing how quickly you can bill and close out different projects.

Starting Your Digital Form Journey

At the end of the day, getting started with an online form builder is easy, even though the task may seem daunting at first. While it was mentioned once already, it bears repeating, support teams and detailed documentation will go a long way in helping you build out the best online form you can, while also helping you discover more features about your digital forms platform. As with any change, do your best to communicate early and often with your team, and continually collect feedback from them. Incorporating suggested changes and edits to your form is easy, and with the best digital forms platforms you can even save these different versions in case you need to review what changes you’ve made. And the best part? You get to do it all without ordering endless prints of paper forms and finding space to store them all.

Ready to get started?