Web forms, according to Techopedia, are an “online page that allows for user input.” Most of us interface with them in some variety regularly, sometimes multiple times a day. Check-in at the doctor’s office, event registration, invitations, customer satisfaction surveys and contact forms – they’ve become a part of the digital landscape of our lives.
Why use web forms?
If I had a nickel for every time I meant to sign up for something but forgot or for every crumpled and stained form handed to me by a child after the signup deadline. . . . Let’s just say they add up to a good chunk of change and countless opportunities lost.
Designed to mimic their paper counterparts, the ease and convenience of the online option – ready and available when we are – makes it a powerful tool for every stage of parishioner and guest engagement. Your parish will also gain insights and some new capabilities from web form reports and data analytics, making web forms a winning choice for everyone.
When should I use a web form?
The simple answer: almost anytime you would use a paper form. Link or embed them on the parish website, include them in email communications, or on social media for event registrations, small group and Bible study signups, invitations, and surveys.
Don’t forget about the contact form on your home page: “Interested in learning more about our parish? Please fill out the form below…We’d love to talk with you!” Connect them to a simple web form requesting the inquirer’s name, email, telephone number, with a field for an optional note or question.
A general form like this can serve many purposes: it gives new people who aren’t quite ready to register on your parish’s My Own Church site a way to raise their hands; it can also serve as a place for parishioners to contact you and ask a question. You may not receive many form submissions, but its mere presence will communicate openness and warm approachability.
An added bonus of online forms is the ability to set up email notifications for staff. Equally valuable are auto-responses or landing pages that confirm that the submission happened successfully and seamlessly connect the submitter with a logical next step. This next step can be unique for each form that you create.
For example, after filling out a contact form, your parish can customize an auto-responder email thanking inquirers for their interest, affirming your desire to connect, and providing a link to My Own Church, parish news, upcoming events, and other parish resources. After submitting an RSVP for a parish picnic, you might send the submitter to your parish picnic web page, where they’ll see the schedule of activities for your event.
What are my options?
There are many different online form builder options. A few that are often singled out are: Google Forms, Wufoo and JotForm.
Google Forms are free, customizable, and screen responsive. They have many great features to help you get started, at the right price.
Wufoo, which we’ve highlighted before in our blog article Technology Tools: Easy. Cheap. Awesome!, has a wealth of template and customization options, an easy-to-use and award winning interface, data reporting options, and much more. Try it out for free with three forms, or choose a plan that fits your parish’s needs with monthly plans starting at $14.95/month.
Jotform has been praised as being a fast form maker, requiring no sign up to jump in and start making forms. Beginning with five free forms and a hundred monthly submissions, and with plans starting at $19.95/mo. it’s easy to see why Jotform has gathered a following.
Online form best practices
Once you’ve decided how you want online forms to work for your parish, we suggest checking out resources to help you get started. FormAssembly breaks down form building best practices and includes examples of beautiful and well-designed forms. Mediative drills down deeper to address form design and pose questions about what kind of information you should be collecting. Wufoo offers a full library of resources and tips, as well as responsive customer support.
Web forms and the parish
If you’ve thought about giving online forms a try but you’re letting something hold you back (fear, your hectic schedule, waiting for someone’s permission), I’m here to tell you: you can do it! You don’t have to be a programmer to design awesome forms. Today’s form-building tools and plenty of online resources make it easy and intuitive.
Online forms offer new ways to ease administrative burden, open creative avenues to engagement, and remove obstacles that might keep parishioners and visitors from becoming more involved in the life of the parish. Not a one-stop solution, forms can play an important role in paving the way for in-person encounter and long-term relationship. Go ahead and jump in. You’ve got this! Happy building!