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  • Writer's pictureBrianna Wall

Top 10 Reasons to Ditch PDF Forms

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Bring your information into the 21st century

Hi friends! I’m coming at you today with solutions for gathering information in a convenient, dynamic way — a way that’s not only great for those giving you the information, but also for the back-end user…YOU! What you learn and implement today could help bring your business into the 21st century if it’s not already there. Who’s excited for online forms?!

Don’t you hate it when you’re needing to quickly fill out a form and the person you’re sending it to expects you to open a PDF, either type in text fields that don’t exist or [GASP] print it off, complete it with a pen just to scan it back onto your computer 🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️, then open an email, attach said PDF and send it to them?

Have you been that person? I have. At the time, it was the best alternative to people giving you what you needed in what appeared to be a 4-year-old’s handwriting. It was an okay solution, but it wasn’t perfect.

If you are using PDF forms today, please, please stop. They only act as a barrier to what you are trying to get accomplished, and every tool you need (and more!) I guarantee it can be provided by an online form-builder.

Most of the online form-builders are free to use depending on how many submissions your forms receive. The screenshot examples I’m using here are from my personal favorite form-builder, JotForm, but there are numerous platforms you can try — most have free trials or are free depending on the number of form submissions.

With that said, here are my top 10 reasons to upgrade your forms from PDF to online forms.

1. User Experience

We should be keeping the end user experience in mind with every decision we make in marketing and communications. What is most convenient? What will lead to the action we’re wanting the user to take? How will our product solve the user's problem? And always remember to ask, is whatever we’re doing mobile responsive? (PDFs are not.) Today’s consumers expect all of these things, and if we want to engage with them, we need to be open to solutions that help us achieve that. Enter online form-builders.

2. There's nothing they can't do

Need a written signature? Check.

Need legal jargon agreed to? Check.

Need documents uploaded? Check.

Need conditional settings? Check.

Literally anything you need a form to do, an online form can achieve it.

The best part is they are very user-friendly to build. Most form-builders use a drag-and-drop method that lets you drag whichever field you would like into your form, then walks you through how to set it up.

3. They provide endless branding opportunities

If you’re willing to shell out a few bucks each month, you can get rid of any required branding of the platform you’re using and instead insert your own so all forms appear legitimate. Consumers today are typically hyper aware of anything that looks like it might be fraudulent or a scam, including forms you have embedded on your own website. Inserting your own branding puts them at ease and ensures them their information is safe and secure.

Plus, any opportunity you have to add your logo, color scheme and fonts should be taken advantage of. Our goal is to look consistent, modern and legitimate. (Check out this post for more ways to unify your brand)

4. It’s easy to embed forms straight into your existing website

Any form you create can be embedded into any website or you can link directly to it. If you choose the latter, be sure to read #2 again. Consumers today are weary about entering personal information on a website other than a trusted domain. If you link directly to the form, the domain will be the name of the form-builder, not your business’s trusted web domain. That’s why I always try to embed forms whenever possible and always use cohesive branding.

Whether you need an embed code, a source code, iFrame code or something else, you can find it in your form’s settings. Simply copy and paste it into the HTML of your website.

5. Your forms will finally be mobile-responsive!

Hopefully you know by now that every web-based communications decision you make needs to be mobile-responsive. And honestly, there’s really no excuse for it not to be, as web and app developers today design everything with a mobile-responsive mindset. Every tool you use needs to have a mobile-friendly option.

Be sure to preview and test them first, just in case.

6. They require users to enter specific information

It’s super easy to make any field a required field, not allowing users to submit the form until they have completed all required fields.

You’ll want to be careful if you’re using conditions that allow fields to remain hidden until certain selections are made.

7. You can use them for everything

The uses for online forms are endless and are everywhere if you think about it. Peruse your company’s website and intranet and you’ll quickly find old forms that haven’t been updated in years. Now that we know solutions exist, let’s get to work updating these forms!

Here are a few examples you may find:

  • Reimbursement forms

  • Needs requests or IT tickets

  • Facilities/Maintenance requests

  • Donation program sign-up

  • E-newsletter sign-up

  • Event registration

  • Ad submissions

  • Donation requests

8. You can customize the forms’ email settings

You may determine that the information submitted on a form needs to be delivered to one or more people. Work with those in your organization to decide who needs that information and what exactly they need. For example, a payroll administrator may want a written signature included with a payroll-deduct authorization form. It’s easy to set that as a required field and send email confirmations of all form submissions directly to that person.

You will also want to update the email settings. The form builder you use has default settings, like sending a confirmation email from their domain or name rather than yours. Be sure to let your clients know you received the form by setting the ‘from’ and/or reply email address to your own in case they have follow-up questions. Otherwise, the email confirmation will be sent to the user ‘from: JotForm’ for example.

9. You can add endless conditional settings.

One of my favorite features of online forms is the use of conditional settings. These are a more advanced feature of forms but the form-builders keep it really user-friendly when setting up conditions. They add a dynamic touch to your forms while keeping them concise and clear to users.

Basically, fields appear or disappear based on answer selections as they are chosen.

You can also set email and notification conditions based on the answer selections.

10. Export all the submission info into a handy spreadsheet

The final reason to upgrade your forms is the data you receive and the endless possibilities of organizing it all. Each time your form is submitted, the data entered is stored in a database. You can export it at any time (usually as a CSV) if you would like to organize it yourself. Most form-builders will also automatically arrange your data in charts and graphs so you can download it and insert it into your Powerpoint or reports.

You can also create templates and turn each submission into its own file. For example, you might want to create a way for sponsors to easily select their sponsorship levels and enter their contact and billing information. You can look specifically at that entry and turn it into a pre-made invoice template. Then, all you have to do is download it and send the invoice!

The possibilities truly are endless when you begin thinking of all the reasons you collect information from vendors, clients, customers, employees, the general public, etc. The easier you make it for your audiences to give you information, the more willing they are to give it. And the more information you can gather, the better you understand your audience, which means you can more effectively communicate with them and build trust.

Not to mention, using this method to collect information as opposed to PDF forms saves everyone so much time and headache.

And that is always, ALWAYS worth it.

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