by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 3 June 2013
Forms are great data collection tools. That much we know. However, the true power of forms for small businesses lies in their extensibility and uses across multiple scenarios and situations. Cumulatively, these situations can affect your business's bottom line.
This week, we will review Formstack - a form-builder solution that introduces small businesses to the true possibility and potential of using forms as part of your business strategy. In this Formstack review, we will look at the solution's features, interface, and see how it can be of use to you.
According to Chris Lucas, VP Business Development at the company, Formstack started as a side project and grew into a full-time business. "Our founder came up with the idea of Formstack because he was tired of building forms - he was a custom web app developer," says Lucas. The idea has lasted for seven years. "Formstack makes it super easy for small businesses and small organizations to build forms (such as lead generation, event registration, online order forms etc) and begin to collect information online," according to him. In the process, Lucas says they replace inefficient ways to collect information such as "clunky Word and PDF docs."
That value proposition certainly seems compelling for small businesses. After all, information is power in this age. Through surveys and forms designed with the help of Formstack, small businesses can collect valuable information about their internal and external customers. This information can then be used to craft better products and services and improve the business's internal processes.
In recent times, Formstack has made forays into other web apps and tools to help small businesses manage operations. For example, Formstack's Launch Pad tool consists of a tools suite that helps small businesses manage tasks as diverse as building a simple online storefront to building landing pages for their website.
Lucas says Launch Pad complements the solution's core form-building capabilities. Thus, multiple tools within Formstack help you drive traffic towards your form, Extension of the solution's capabilities has also increased the number of use cases for the solution. "We have several small businesses who collect leads through Formstack and integrate it with their email and pass those onto start email marketing," explains Lucas as an example use case. "Through our forms and integrations, we make small businesses operate like big businesses for less than their monthly phone bill."
Plus, the solution has already integrated with available market solutions from multiple industries. For example, you can use Formstack with payment processors such as PayPal and First Data. Similarly, you can also use the tool to send out emails via MailChimp & Constant Contact or generate customer relationship data using CRM solutions such as Salesforce and Highrise. Lucas says these integrations make Formstack a very powerful tool. "Once a small business has a website, Formstack can be used to start collecting data and generate leads from it," he says. "We are simple, affordable, and powerful for any small business to get started."
You can start building forms three easy ways with Formstack: Custom forms, pre-built forms, and blank forms. Building a form is extremely easy and includes a step-by-step guide. Form builder tools help you customize the look and feel of each form. For example, you can customize the length of responses or add radio buttons and check boxes for each form. One of the more thoughtful additions to the solution is that of security. Security has become an increasingly important part of the form-building process because it helps prevent automated spammers from filling out your form. Formstack has several form extras such as inclusion of Captchas or an extra secure logo (such as a Formstack logo) to help your solution become secure.
As I mentioned earlier, the solution has recently introduced Launch Pad, a tools suite that helps small businesses build and manage data around their forms. These apps are available as an integrated platform of online forms and webpages that are geared to take your business to the next level. Or, to put in the words of the Formstack's website, Launch Pad is a hub of simplified web apps that make running your business a lot easier.
You can reconfigure your business' online presence using these tools. For example, you can create e-commerce storefronts or create marketing email campaigns or web pages for your small business website. Again, the accent on building out tools is on simplicity and ease-of-use. For example, creating a storefront requires a sum total of three easy steps.
Finally, Formstack has a comprehensive analytics suite to help analyze business performance. For example, you can see the total number of views and submissions using this tool. Similarly, you can also track activities related to form processing for each submission.
Among the solution's pros are its focus on integration. I think that is an especially smart and wise move. Integrating a tools suite along with their form-building capability makes it easier for users to immediately analyze statistics and see the full picture. For example, small business owners can immediately note a potential customers website activity (through the tools suite) and correlate it with form data available through the solution's core capability to get a better idea of customer preferences. The solution's ease-of-use and convenience are excellent add-ons to its main functionality.
That said, Formstack offers limited analytics capability for users in its current form. Through integration with third party tools, the possibilities for analytics are enormous. It might be an idea for the solution's developers to extend the solution's analytics capabilities.
Formstack has four pricing tiers: Max, Business, Professional and Starter. Each tier is differentiated based on feature sets and file sizes. For example, the Max pricing tiers offers 100 themes, 10 GB storage and approximately 100,000 entries per form. One of the great things about the solution is that its free trial includes several advanced features such as data collection, secure payments, and integrations with third-party providers.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the true power and possibility of forms lies in the utility in multiple situations in your business. With its tools suite and integrations with third-party apps, Formstack brings those possibilities to your small business.
Ratings: ease of use 4/5, features 5/5, value 5/5 and ease of deployment 4/5