Formstack Review

Contact forms, order forms, customer surveys, and more – forms are an important part of any business’s online presence, and something that can be difficult to create.

Enter Formstack, an online service (free & paid options available), dedicated to making the creation of great forms easy. Formstack allows you to build online forms & landing pages, customize their appearance, and store the data in an easy-to-access system. The service also boasts integration with some great outside apps, allowing for collection of online payments, automatic updates of your CRM/email marketing systems, and more. Read on for a complete review of Formstack and a walkthrough of using the system.

Creating A Form

When you first login, Formstack drops you into a screen suggesting you get started creating a form.

Formstack Create Your First Form

Formstack Create Your First Form

Click to get started, and you’ll have a few options:

Create Your Form - Step 1

Create Your Form - Step 1

Enter a name for the form, and then choose what you wan to create. You can always start with a blank form. You can also use an existing webpage form or html file – great if you want to duplicate the form from your old website. Formstack also includes a large number of pre-built forms in categories such as:

  • Education – Alumni Survey, Course Eval, etc.
  • Finance - Expense & Mileage Reimbursement
  • General – Contact Form
  • HR - Job Application, Safety Incident Report, etc.
  • IT – Bug Report, Customer Satisfaction Survey, Support Request
  • Marketing – Contest, Event Registration, Mailing List Signup
  • Non-Profit – Donation Form, Volunteer & Workshop Registration
  • Other – Conference Room Registration
  • Personal - Pitch-In Signup, Party & Wedding RSVP
  • Sales – Credit Card Form, Lead Generation, Self-Calculating Order Form

All these forms might start to give you an idea as to the wide range of uses possible with Formstack. It’s possible to run most of a business right on the system – replacing all those paper forms you have with one online application.

In order to keep things simple, I’m going to go with the pre-made Contact Form.

Building Your Form - Step 2

Building Your Form - Step 2

I’m taken directly to the form builder. This screen makes it possible for someone with no technical expertise to build the form they want. If you look at the screenshot, you’ll see a blue box around the title – this box appears when you hover over any element on the form, allowing you to delete, duplicate, edit, or move the section. Down at the bottom of the screen there is an area to add fields to the form, add a section (sections divide up forms to make large forms simpler), rearrange the fields in bulk, and edit options.

If you’re making a more complex form, Formstack’s many types of fields makes this easier. For instance, rather than creating and arranging several blanks for an address, city, state, zip, you can choose an “Address” field, and it will create an address area just like in the picture above. There are also fields for credit cards, date/time, file upload, matrix (like those seen in quality surveys), and many more.

Once your form is looking good, you click the “Form Extras” button. Here you can edit the label positioning, add columns, change the submit button text, add a captcha, and more. Once finished, the “Next Step” button will bring you to form settings:

Form Settings - Step 3

Formstack Form Settings - Step 3

The settings page has several tabs running down the left side. General settings allow you to choose a name, decide whether form submission data will be stored, and select a “Style Template” for the forms. When creating a form, you will have option to embed it in your website, but can also link to a Formstack-hosted version of the form. These styles govern the look of the form on Formstack’s site. You can either use one of the many pre-made styles, or create one of your own.

Moving on to the “Emails & Redirects” tab, you can decide what happens after a form is submitted:

Notification Emails & Redirects

Emails & Redirects

Here you can setup notification emails – with the ability to alert multiple people, or determine who receives notices based on a multiple-choice question in the form. You can also setup confirmation emails, letting form submitters know that you will be getting back to them soon. Finally, there is an option for “After the Form is Submitted.” You can display a message on the form, redirect users to another page, or send the data to someone else. This is where many of the integrations come into play, as you can send data to a CRM system, credit card processor, email marketing provider, or others (see Integrations section, below).

Once this page is complete, there are three more options tabs:

  • Security – You can set a form password, or use SSL and encrypt data to make sure everything is secure.
  • 3rd Party Integrations – Here is where you configure the integrations.
  • Plugins – You can add a page for users to confirm entry before submitting a form, add discount codes if you’re selling products, and add analytics. The analytics feature is especially useful – allowing you to track how many people fill out vs. just view the form, and even see how much they are focusing on particular form fields.

Now that the settings are set, it’s time to use your form:

Use Your Formstack Form - Step 4

Use Your Formstack Form - Step 4

There are several ways to use your Formstack form:

  • URL Links – You can link to the form hosted on Formstack’s site. They give you a regular URL, one for mobile devices, and a QR code (for cell phones).
  • Embed Form – You can use javascript to embed the form on your website. There is also an option for a popup “Lightbox” form.
  • Landing Page – If you’re using Formstack’s landing page product, you can insert the form into a landing page.
  • Social Media – I wouldn’t have called this social media, but anyway – there is a WordPress plugin, Joomla extension, and TypePad widget to make installing forms easy if you use on of these to power your website.
  • Advanced - You can get the full form html, or send people to a pre-populated version of the forms if you are comfortable with html

And you’re done! Here’s my form (I may have made a bad choice with the background):

Sample Formstack Form

Sample Formstack Form

Once your form is complete, you can see submissions and edit options:

Formstack Form Submissions and Options

Formstack Form Submissions and Options

Here you can view submissions, create reports with data from the submissions, access analytics, or change any part of the form. With some Formstack plans, you can have multiple users – allowing employees to login and see form submissions, in addition to receiving them via email.

The Integrations

We’ve reviewed the basics of Formstack’s form builder, so now I’m going to turn to where some of the great features lie – in the integrations.

Payment

You can use Formstack to collect simple payments, or use its total calculator to let customers choose several products, enter a shipping address and pay through the system. It’s not a full-featured shopping cart, but is much simpler to setup, and can be an easy way for local companies to start selling online. The integration works with:

  • Authorize.net
  • First Data
  • WePay
  • Chargify
  • Google Checkout
  • Paypal Standard, Pro, and Payflow Pro

CRM/Email

Customer info collected in Formstack can automatically be sent into a CRM or email marketing system – eliminating your manual data entry. It works with:

CRM

  • Batchbook
  • Email Center Pro
  • Highrise
  • Salesforce

Email

  • Campaign Monitor
  • Constant Contact
  • ExactTarget
  • MailChimp

Other

Formstack also integrates with the Zendesk help desk app, Freshbooks for billing (see my Freshbooks review), Google Docs spreadsheets, and Twitter (to tweet new form submissions).  For full details on all of these, visit Formstack.

Pricing

Formstack has a limited free option. Paid plans start at $14 per month, including all features, and hit $29 for more forms and up to 5 users. These would work for most small businesses, but there are more expensive plans for those who need more. The prices aren’t high, but they are another monthly fee.

In my experience, Formstack makes the most sense if you’ll be using the integrations, data storage, or creating forms frequently. If you just need a simple form for your website, paying an ongoing fee might be harder to swallow (although you might get by with the free plan).

Conclusion

Formstack is a great form builder, with a host of a nice features. For companies that make good use of it, digitizing all their forms, collecting payment, and asking for customer info online, it’s a great choice. If you’re looking for a better way to create online forms, check out their free trial here.

Note for WordPress users: I left Formstack for Gravity Forms, which is a WordPress plugin. The pricing worked better for what I do, and the total WordPress integration is nice. On the other hand, form creation in Formstack is easier, and it still has more integrations and features. If you’re looking for a form builder, I’d check them both out.

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About Chris Piepho

Chris is the founder of Small Business Shift. You can learn more about him here. If you would like to work with Chris, please get in touch.

5 Responses to “Formstack Review”

  1. wutitdo homeslice September 27, 2011 at 2:46 am #

    formstacks is garbage. no repeating sections and calculating repeating fields do no exist. tables are non-existant as well. all of which should be basic functions of a form. the interface is made for 10 year olds. you’re better off building a free pdf or infopath form. why these idiots decided to reinvent the wheel… I HAVE NO IDEA!!

    • Chris Piepho September 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

      That’s a lot of anger. I don’t think Formstack is really comparable to a pdf, or even all that similar to Infopath, but you’re certainly welcome to use another service.

  2. John May 21, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Nice article and review about Formstack.
    However, did you check out other form builders as well
    like JotForm, Wufoo, 123ContactForm, etc?

    I just want to know the difference between formstack
    and the others. Can you name 1 thing that separates
    Formstack from the others?

    Thanks.

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