A form is a structured document with a fixed arrangement. Forms are used to collect required information in a logical, meaningful fashion for communication and pass to another entity. When you picture what a form is, you can conjure many different types of documents. A purchase order, a survey, a service request, or a tax return might come to mind.
But there are many types of forms which we don’t immediately think of as such. When you write a check or cash a money order, cast a vote, agree to terms, or accept web cookies, you are also completing a form. A statement, such as a monthly bill, is a typed document that is fundamentally the output of a form. An application is also a form—it is a written expression of someone’s desire to participate in an event, organization, or program.
Form documents are the backbone of the administrative process. For that reason, they have existed in some way throughout history. Forms compile the registration data of residents, customers, students, donors, or any group with a relationship to a business, government, school, or organization, and facilitate future retrieval.
Forms that are well designed often go unnoticed. When forms are simple, understandable, and collect the required information, life goes on. When forms are poorly designed or allowed to get out of date, organizations often hastily append new forms rather than take the time to revise the original. Bureaucracy ensues!
There also are types of form documents that occupy the middle zone between printed documents and web forms. These forms are typically in PDF format but can sometimes be in Word (.doc) or other common formats. PDF form documents are an on-screen version of a printed form. They are often delivered electronically to the respondent (e.g. via web download or email). They may be printed, filled out, scanned into another PDF, and returned electronically.
When you see a form on a web page, the input boxes and options are displayed using the HTML programming language. What you might call a “question” or a “blank” on a printed form is known as a “placeholder” or “field” or “form input” on a web form. HTML looks the same on any web page until further programming is used to personalize the look. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) offers endless possibilities for adjusting the colors, fonts, and sizes of form elements.
After using HTML and CSS to make a visually appealing web form, the information submitted in the placeholders needs to know where to go. For this reason, you will need a web server with an SQL
database and PHP programming knowledge to process the record from the web form and save it in your database.
Although the traditional printed document form will remain a part of our lives for the foreseeable future, more and more paper will be replaced by web page forms and other formats made for screens. While the advantages of the web form outnumber those of a printed form, let’s be reminded of the advantages of hard copies.
It’s a digital world. Why are printed forms still around?
Most of the time, these advantages do not outweigh the speed and organization gained by replacing print with web forms. When required information can be collected online via a web form, everybody wins. The earth wins through reduced use of paper. Communication is instant, and data entry needs are vastly reduced after the submissions come in. On the web, it makes no difference what kind of computer is used and no special software applications are needed to display and use a form. In fact, in today’s mobile-dependent world, web forms have evolved to work on mobile devices and are responsive (adaptable) to most screen resolutions.
Some additional web form advantages we take for granted:
To find out if a web form builder can meet your needs, try 123FormBuilder for free. This web form builder is a great choice for anyone because it features a user-friendly drag-and-drop editor, many customizable features, and multiple publishing options. With over 600 form templates to start from, even a beginner can publish an effective, standards-compliant form to the web.
The power of a web form builder doesn’t end with the compelling web page on your website. 123FormBuilder integrates with applications you are probably using already, including Google Drive, MailChimp, and SalesForce. Your forms can even partner up with the likes Square, PayPal, and Stripe to process payments with confidence.
You can do more than you think! Sign up and find out. It’s free!