Introduction to Web Forms

Today’s organisations collect a lot of data to run their business and to help make better decisions. This data may be contact information, financial data, feedback, process management and much more. In modern organisations, most of that data ends up in digital format in a database system. 

The question is, what is the best method for collecting information? The definition of “best” will depend on a number of factors such as where the data is coming from and how it needs to be structured. In earlier times, the process was simply “please take a seat and fill out this (paper) form”. These days, data collection is largely digital. So you may be handed an iPad or asked to fill out a form on your phone before you arrive.

In this article, we will look at the benefits of using web forms, and the array of options available. 


web form is, well, a form on the web! To be more explicit, it is a page accessed using a web browser while accessing the Internet. It will contain various boxes where you can fill in data. Many of those boxes will be free text where you can enter anything you like; others will have pop-up lists or check boxes or calendars to choose from. Some parts will be required and others optional; some data will be validated (such as being a reasonable date or proper email address); some data may be conditional on previous data entered. So web forms can be quite simple with a couple of data points, or complex with many pages.
Web forms allow for varied data input
What are the alternatives for collecting data?
  • paper form – printed and filled out with a pen
  • electronic form – commonly a PDF document filled out on a computer


The advantages of web forms are often the disadvantages of the alternatives:
  • easily updated – change questions or add text, changes available immediately
  • easy access – send users a link or provide a QR code
  • no stock required – paper forms need to be printed, distributed and stored
  • enforce data validation and completeness, and include conditional sections
  • data immediately available in systems – no transcriptions
  • can be integrated with other workflow processes such as notifications
But it is not all positive – web forms do have some disadvantages:
  • usually require an Internet connection
  • require a device (computer, tablet, mobile) to access
  • can be slow and/or difficult for some users – could be quicker and easier to use a pen
  • need technology to create and host web forms, and store data
Having said all that, web forms usually win out as the best way to collect data. 


Providing a web form requires technology to create, maintain, publish and collect data. 
  • The structure of a web form can be created from simple HTML code. However, most modern web forms also use CSS for styling and JavaScript for the “smarts”. So if you are doing this from scratch, you will have a bit of learning to do.
  • The web form needs to be available on a web page and therefore needs all the infrastructure of a web site – domain, hosting, etc. 
  • Data submitted through the form needs to go somewhere. Basic web forms can send this in an email. But it is far more useful to have this data submitted to a database. This is often something like MySQL and may be provided as part of a web hosting plan. So there may be more to learn about how to configure a database and access the data. 
All the above may seem a little overwhelming just to get a web form up and running to collect data. There are many no code or low code options available in web form builders. These are typically offered as software as a service (SaaS) with all the technical requirements taken care of for you. 
Form Builders
There are literally hundreds of web form builders available with more being added each year (and some disappearing). Most have a free tier or a trial period so you can easily sign up and test to see if it fits your needs. While we cannot list or review all the services out there – a search for “popular form builders” will return a quite a few review pages. 
If you want to do your own research, here are five names to get you started (in alphabetical, not recommended, order):
  • Gravity Forms – “Powerful data capture fueled by Gravity Forms.”
  • HubSpot – “Powerful, not overpowering”
  • Jotform – “Powerful forms get it done.”
  • Typeform – “Create forms, surveys, and quizzes that people enjoy answering”
  • Wufoo – “Easy-to-Use Online Form Builder For Every Organization”
The nice thing about these services is that they are inclusive of hosting and data storage. They provide intuitive interfaces for producing simple and complex forms. Most provide templates to get you started.
Most of the editors are simple drag and drop, with many different objects, components or elements to choose from. You can choose simple fields to collect data as well as provide options to upload documents or signature capture. Objects will have options such as data validation, input types (radio button, checkbox, dropdown) and formatting (size, position, hover text, visibility). 
Web form tools provide drag and drop ease of use
Services also provide tools for integration and workflow automation. This can be an open API that allows you to connect virtually any system (some learning required), or built-in integrations to many popular systems (e.g. Slack, Mailchimp, Dropbox).

Claris Studio

The first iteration of Claris Studio in May 2022 was focussed on the collection of data using web forms from anonymous users. Claris Studio is a relatively new player in the form builder market and it is iterating rapidly adding new features. Frankly, it has a job to catch up with the more established players but, as with some others, it offers more than just web forms. In our next article, we will explore what can be done with Claris Studio forms.

2 Responses

    1. Hi Didier
      Absolutely – Google Forms is another Form Builder option. The data collected via a Google Form can be viewed in Google Sheets. That is the same in Claris Studio with Form and Spreadsheet Views for a Table. So the Form Builder market is very crowded. But Claris Studio is so much more than just a Form Builder. This makes it a compelling choice when the Form View becomes more functional.

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