Why Testing Your Web Forms Regularly is Good Business Practice
In today’s increasingly digital world, it’s hard to think of any business that doesn’t have at least one web form on its website. Web forms are one of the best ways to get information about prospective clients and may be the first interaction a customer has with you.
Web forms include contact forms, surveys, shipping forms, registration forms and quizzes. Web forms are also used to allow customers to place an e-commerce order.
When essential forms stop working or underperform, both your business and the user experience suffer.
How Do I Know if My Web Form Isn’t Working?
If your company typically receives hundreds or thousands of inquiries, orders or other form submissions on a day-to-day basis, you’ll likely notice pretty quickly if a form stops working.
But if your company doesn’t receive a high volume of submissions, you may not notice if the form isn’t working optimally for days.
At 14 Oranges, we sometimes hear from clients expressing concern about having not received inquiries or leads as expected. They usually think there is an issue with the website itself. But, when we investigate, we often find that the form or forms on their website have stopped working as they should.
Why Do Web Forms Suddenly Stop Working?
You may be wondering why a form that was embedded in your website and worked well for months or even years would suddenly stop working.
There are several possible reasons including issues with your web server not being allowed to send emails, to issues with code on your website. Updates can also affect your web forms. For example, if your company uses WordPress, you may be using the e-commerce plugin WooCommerce. A WordPress update can affect the functionality of the WooCommerce plugin. Browser updates, auto-updates that occur for your website, or manual updates made by somebody on your team could also affect a form’s functionality.
Essentially, your website is operating in a constantly evolving environment. Many people take a “set it and forget it” approach to their website, assuming it will function perfectly until it’s time for a redesign. But having a website is more like having a garden–you get the best results when you check in on it regularly.
How Do I Test My Web Forms?
No matter how big or small your business is, regularly testing your web forms is a good habit to get into.
Here’s what to look for when testing your forms:
- Ensure the form appears on the page how you expect it to.
- Are all the fields that should be there, there?
- How does it look on mobile? Are any fields too small or not visible at all?
- Submit a form as a lead or customer would and then review:
- Your submission or thank you message. Is it clear that the form has been submitted?
- Your email notifications for both you as the business owner and for the user. Was each notified correctly and provided the correct details?
- Your form entries. Are entries showing up correctly in the back end after the submission?
- Check your error messages:
- Are users given the right messages if they try to submit incorrect or incomplete information? Does the form highlight what they need to go back to fix?
Once you’ve ensured that all of the data collected is being stored correctly and that the user has received the appropriate outputs (thank you messages, emails, redirects), you can feel confident the form is working well.
Web Forms and Security
Ensuring your web forms are working correctly isn’t important only to get the best results for your business. Your forms often gather personal information about your visitors and customers including their names, email and physical addresses, phone numbers, credit card details and more.
So, it’s critical to ensure the data your forms collect is secure.
You may be thinking, “I’m a small local business, I don’t even accept a credit card on my website, why would a hacker waste their time with my site?”
Unfortunately, that’s not how hackers operate. Hackers have bots that scan the entire internet and full websites looking for hacking opportunities. Sometimes the bot finds a website that has a list of users with unencrypted passwords, for example. Since many people use the same password for multiple things, a hacker could potentially use the information found through your website to access your users’ other more personal data.
How Can I Ensure My Forms Are Secure?
You can use a reputable form builder that helps stop spam submissions coming through with an email validation process. You can also look at adding CAPTCHAs to the end of your forms. These questions help confirm that the person completing the form is not a robot. These are a good additional layer of protection against spam and hackers.
You should also make sure that your site and plugins are up to date. Hackers are constantly looking for ways to take advantage of sites and plugins are generally their favourite targets. Keeping them up to date ensures that your forms are secure. At 14 Oranges, we recommend ensuring your site and plugins are up to date at least twice a year. That being said, once you have done those updates, test your forms to make sure nothing got broken in the process.
How Often Should I Test My Web Forms?
People often ask us how often they should test their forms and the answer is really dependent upon your business. If your business typically receives hundreds or thousands of submissions regularly, testing daily is probably unnecessary. If you’re a smaller business that only receives a handful of submissions a week, you may consider daily or weekly testing.
Ask yourself, “What is the cost of losing a lead if our forms aren’t working well?” This should give you a clear sense of how to prioritize web form testing amongst other business activities and decide on how frequently you should do it.
Of course, if you’re at all unsure, the team at 14 Oranges is happy to help you verify the status of your forms and website to ensure everything is up to date and functioning optimally.
Sylvain Marcotte is CEO and President of 14 Oranges.
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