- General Best Practices
- Product Best Practices
We have a confession to make. We’re guilty of not always spreading the love to all of our core modules in our blogs. Namely, Forms Manager, which has quietly become the sturdy foundation for so many application and donation pages, as well as a variety of other inspired uses ranging from simple lunch orders to tuition estimators.
Forms Manager allows anyone to create great-looking forms in a matter of minutes thanks to its simplicity and adaptability. If you can think it, Forms Manager can very likely build it. Some common Forms Manager uses include:
- Inquiry forms
- Donation forms
- Payment collection forms
- Job application forms
- Volunteer forms
- Lunch order forms
- Event RSVP forms
- Field Trip Forms
- Include forms in Timed Page Pops
- Tuition Estimator forms
No matter their intended use, forms created through Forms Manager are responsive and accessible on all devices — and if you ask our design team, they can dress them up pretty nice!
To help inspire you, we’ve picked out some of the best uses of Forms Manager that we found across Finalsite school websites, as well as some best practices to keep your forms looking great while remaining efficient and secure.
Grand River Academy - Homepage Inquiry Form
We’ve previously written a blog showcasing how Grand River Academy (GRA) was able to increase inquiries through excellent use of forms. Let’s take a look at how GRA crafted their inquiry journey from the moment a new visitor arrives on their homepage.
GRA starts the journey for those interested in applying through a hard-to-miss green “Inquire Now” button on the right side of the homepage. Clicking the button opens a short inquiry form without navigating visitors away from the homepage.
GRA is able to cast a wide net and capture the attention of nearly every visitor through prominent placement and an eye-catching color for the inquiry button. Plus, the homepage remains clean and clutter-free.
GRA also keeps their initial inquiry form short because visitors are far more likely to spend the minute or two needed to complete the form. Schools are oftentimes guilty of packing too many questions into the initial inquiry form to collect as much information as possible, which can be counterproductive and serve as a major deterrent for visitors who might just be in the awareness phase of their search.
For inquiry forms, it’s better to collect a little information during an initial visit and follow up with automated emails at a later date. We know that most of your website visitors (those who are not already constituents) are window-shopping for different schools and aren’t exactly in a rush to commit based on an exploratory visit.
Because Composer makes it so easy to share, the same short form can also be found on GRA’s Application Process page.
Both forms only have a dozen main fields, plus a checkbox and email field just above the customized “Start the Journey Now!” submit button. The form is short, to the point, and the fields aren’t asking for too much information from a first-time visitor. Plus, an optional “Comment” field allows applicants to provide additional information if they feel like taking the time to do so.
One last aspect to acknowledge is how GRA’s branding and styling is tied into their forms with the same blue hue and text font found throughout their website. It’s a simple touch, but it’s one that goes a long way in keeping a cohesive aesthetic for the entire website. And best of all, Finalsite takes care of consistent branding and styling during deployment so that new forms are automatically ready to drop in anytime.
Purnell School - Unique Inquiry Form
Purnell School starts off the inquiry process strong with a unique and eye-catching form that pops open once you click on the blue “Inquire” button at the top of the homepage.
Forgoing the standard form design that you’ve seen a thousand times, Purnell went with a black circular or ovular backdrop (depending on your browser zoom level) with white text on top for a clear, easy-to-read contrast with some personality. For larger screens, the circle expands to cover the entire screen.
Just like GRA, Purnell kept their initial inquiry form short and succinct, only asking visitors to fill out a few standard fields like names, grade level, location, references, and an optional comment field for those who want to provide additional information.
If a minimalist homepage is important, you can find the exact same form without the lightbox on the school’s “Request Info” page under the Admissions tab. This form has all the same fields as the homepage form, but this instance is the standard format that families are used to seeing.
For an example of a longer, more fleshed-out online form, check out Purnell’s Online Application page, which is also completely powered by Forms Manager. Here you’ll find the lengthy 8-page application a parent will complete to send their child to Purnell. Keeping in line with Forms Manager best practices, Purnell separates this lengthy application from the initial inquiry form.
Thayer Academy - Make a Gift
The donation form was built with a combination of text fields, text areas, checkboxes, and dropdown menus to keep the form short and simple. Organizing the sections with checkboxes in rows, rather than columns, also keeps the form short.
It’s worth mentioning that Thayer follows Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standards by keeping credit card fields separate from the rest of the donation form.
A two-step donation process is superior to a single form with payment fields. Requiring applicants to enter their credit card information without proceeding to another form over a secure connection increases the chances that their information could be stolen by a third-party.
Instead, separate the payment information over a secure connection to keep their information safe. Asking donors to fill out two short forms isn’t asking too much. We’ve already become accustomed to this process when we purchase items through Amazon and other online retailers.
Thayer also allows donors to schedule donations on a monthly, recurring, or on a one-time schedule through a dropdown menu. An additional option for those with a company that will match their donation is made possible with a simple click of the corresponding checkbox.
Additionally, donors can submit a donation “in honor” or “in memory” of whomever or whatever they choose through the combination of a dropdown menu and a text field. Options like these go a long way in creating a more purposeful form; what’s more, these options take little time to implement.
Though not directly related to Forms Manager, Thayer allows donations directly through image links to PayPal, Venmo, and employer matching options on the right-side of the donation form. More options are never a bad thing!
Lastly, make sure your forms are designed with a mobile-friendly mindset. More visitors access your school’s website from their smartphone or tablet than through a laptop or desktop. Parents are likely searching for schools on their break, while on the go, or even while waiting for their children to get out of school. Filling out a mobile form should be just as easy as on a desktop.
Take a look at Thayer’s “Give Now” donation form on a mobile phone. The screen size is obviously smaller, and the form’s width has been compressed, but the form maintains the same aesthetic and functionality as its desktop counterpart. A potential donor isn’t getting a subpar experience when they decide to donate on their phone. If anything, it’s even easier and more convenient than the traditional desktop option.
Rectory School - Tuition Estimator
Forms Manager allows you to get creative, too! Rectory School used Forms Manager to create a responsive tuition estimator that uses a system of conditional fields to show a tuition estimate for parents curious about the price of the school’s day and boarding school programs relative to the family’s annual income. An estimate is revealed once parents select the type of enrollment (day vs. boarding) and tuition.
The tuition estimates were created by adding a conditional field for each combination of school choice and annual family income. This meant Rectory School used 34 conditional fields for the entire form, 10 for all the potential day school options and 24 for all the boarding school options.
However, since a parent will likely only select one combination of school and annual family income, most visitors will only ever see one tuition estimate. Conditional fields work best for forms such as this tuition estimator because all the other potential choices are hidden until they are needed, keeping forms short and easy to read.
Charlotte Country Day School - Volunteer Form
The form is short and gets directly to the point with a few fields to only capture the necessary information. Shorter is almost always better with online forms. This volunteer form only requires an applicant to fill out seven fields, plus two optional fields and a hidden conditional field that’s only displayed once the “Other” box under the “Volunteer Interest” section is selected.
Online forms created through Forms Manager are the building blocks for any donation, inquiry, or volunteer page. They’re easy to create and make managing donations and applications easy, especially if you want to export data once you’ve finished collecting submissions. And feel free to get as creative as Rectory School did with their tuition estimator!
Just make sure you keep your forms short (when appropriate); make use of custom fields for more options; separate payment information; match your school’s branding and styling to fully integrate forms into your website; and design forms so they are mobile-friendly, ensuring people can apply or donate anywhere, anytime. Thankfully, Composer makes this a snap!