In my books, courses, online classes, blogging… etc etc etc, I focus on promoting the need for, and techniques for creating inviting, accessible forms that work great in every environment. But once you have the form, then what do you do with the data you collect?
Ah, yes, that is the essential question. Let’s work from simple to complex:
If you’re just collecting input from a few people, a mailto form action might do the trick. Downsides: Mailto form actions expose your own email address; some users – especially users with the Microsoft Windows operating system* – might have issues launching their email client (Outlook) which is required to send form data created with a mailto: action. If your needs are minimal, you might satisfy them with a mailto form action. You’ll find template HTML here.
Need something more robust? That captures data, validates it at the server to make sure the email address looks like a real email, and even provides captcha to screen out bots? For generations, I’ve been promoting the PHP-based script you can generate at TheSiteWizard.com. The data is sent to you by email (but your email is not visible to the people submitting the form). You can save it in a Google Sheet or some other tool. This works for filling a few orders a month, collecting feedback or comments on your site, or other low-maintenance tasks.
What if you need a full-speed, robust database that lets you run email campaigns — like the one I got you to sign up for when you visited my site? Oh… you missed that? Try it now 🙂
For that, I use MailChimp. Both Mailchimp and its competitor, Constant Contact, allow you to run email campaigns, and get detailed and parseable reports on who opened the emailing, and what they did with the links in the email. The reason I chose Mailchimp is it allows you to get started for free. Once your mailing database exceeds 500 names, you pay, but that gives you the opportunity to ramp up your skills and followers for free. Mailchimp will provide you with the HTML to embed your form in your website, but you can customize the styling of that form using your own CSS3 skills.
Need to sell stuff from your site? he tool of choice is Shopify.com. It’s fairly easy to set up. And as with Mailchimp, you’ll get HTML generated for your sales form that you can tweak or style yourself. They have a 14-day free trial you can use to experiment.
That help? Let me know…
- Disclosure: I own Microsoft. I’m kidding. But I do have some financial relationships with Microsoft.