Creating Online Forms: Six Common Mistakes

Many departments have started the transition from simple PDF or Word Doc forms to forms submitted online. For each site, we provide an easy-to-use form builder tool called Gravity Forms. This can be used to create simple contact forms or newsletter signups to application submissions, etc.

This tool lets you create the fields that you want users to fill in and you can set the email address that will receive the submissions and check the entries within your site.

No matter what level you may be using it, here are some mistakes to keep in mind before publishing your next form.

#1 Collecting Restricted Data or Too Much Information

The submissions that you receive are stored within your site. Information like student UFID numbers, social security numbers, credit cards, medical information, and grades should never be collected from an online form. If you have any questions about what is considered restricted data, contact CLAS IT.

A related problem is asking for too much information for a single form.It’s not a good idea to try to collect every piece of data that you could potentially need if it’s not appropriate at that time. Use conditional fields to keep forms targeted and short.

#2 Collecting Too Little Information

For any submission, the minimum information you’ll need should be the submitter’s name and email address. If you’d like to create an anonymous survey, consider using a more sophisticated survey tool like Qualtrics. If you find that you have to contact the person to clarify something or to follow up, think about whether it would save time to just ask for that information. If a form could easily be replaced by an email, you may not need an online form at all.

#3 Forgetting to Set the Admin Notification Email

In Gravity Forms, the notifications are the emails that are sent after the form has been submitted. The Admin Notification is a copy of the submission and is usually sent to the site administrator. If you don’t change the ‘To’ email address, the submission with be sent to CLAS IT.

To check the admin notification for a form, go to Forms and select the form. Then go to the form notifications. If you see {admin email} as the address, change this to the appropriate email address(es) or mailing list.

#4 Allowing Anyone to Submit the Form

Spammers love open submission forms. To avoid spam and invalid submissions, you should limit the users that can submit the form. If you know that your form should only be submitted by UF users, you can require users to log in before viewing the form. Contact CLAS IT to set this up for your site.

If you’d still like to allow anyone to submit the form, at least use a CAPTCHA. Drag the CAPTCHA field to your form and customize the settings as needed. After saving the form, it will ask users to match words or numbers before submitting.

#5 Using the Wrong Type of Field

It’s easy to use a text field for everything, but there are specialized fields for information like names, dates, phone numbers, web addresses, and physical addresses. Use those fields whenever possible.

Also use drop-down lists and checkboxes to limit choices to your own predetermined values. This will make it easier to sort through the data at a later point. You won’t have to worry about spelling or differences in terminology.

#6 Not Archiving Old Form Entries or Forms

Having entries available in your site doesn’t mean that they will always be permanently available. It’s helpful to have a copy of submissions just in case someone needs to refer back to something from a previous year.

To download entries for a particular form, go to Forms > Export, and then select the form. You can download all entries or just those from a certain date range. This will save a spreadsheet in csv format that you can open in Excel. Once you’ve stored the document, you can delete the downloaded entries. Just a note, deleting entries will also delete any attachments to the submission like images and documents.