Previously we covered some of the trade-offs with using Web Design SaaS tools. The major trade-off is that SaaS tool runs online and therefore always have the latest and greatest version of their tools for use. They also store on their servers all of the assests associaed with your Web widget or other design. This is a mixed blessing – it means design assets are stored offsite with storage and backup economies but then reuse-of those assets in other widgets and designs will be more difficult.
Finally the other major trade-off is that the operational tool a)may not run on all of your diverse online systems CMS, Portal, SharePoint, etc [especially if your online have an online component] and b)may have problems sharing the any operational settings or data collected with your online or local systems. This is one of the major factors impacting Wufoo Forms.
WuFoo forms have drag and drop design with many different data types which include core data validation operations. However, there is a curious restriction in designing a Wufoo form. Except for a very few data types like First and Last Name fields, it is nearly impossible to lay two or more input fields on the same horizontal line. For example to have a Date field horizontally next to a Time field requires Herculean effort and special coding for creating forms with such a layout.
However, Wufoo offers a powerful set of pre-configured form templates which users can easily duplicate, modify and thus save gobs of time in creating a wide range of input forms as seen in the screen shot below:
Literally Wufoo has hundreds of pre-designed forms ready for customization and use. And the template forms are neatly classified into 12 categories such as Surveys, Business, Education, Community, etc. Then it is easy once you have a form designed to change its look and feel with the styling tools available in Wufoo.
Here is a partial screenshot of the Wufoo Theme Builder for Forms in action:
A wide range of form styling is possible in Wufoo theme styler.
Again as in templates, one can copy/duplicate an existing Form Theme and reuse it for several different forms. But it is also easy to rename a theme for a form and then customize its styling. Let me assure readers there is a styling option for just about anything and if you want even more styling control of forms it is possible to use your own CSS applied to the form elements. But that requires coming up to speed with the Wufoo Form API.
Using Wufoo Forms
Here is a sample Wufoo form that I have created and styled for Photo Contest Entry information using an iframe tag. It is live so try it out:
Fill out my Wufoo form!
The last uses Wufoo plugin and associated shortcode:
[wufoo username=”jbsurveyer” formhash=”m1njq16c1lgnxzt” autoresize=”true” height=”640″ header=”show” ssl=”true”]
All of the form calls are working in WordPress because all the form entries have tested out as delivering data. Which brings us to Wufoo Reports. However, the last is awkward if not downright clumst because it takes the user out of the WordPress blog such that users must use the backarrow in the browser a couple of times to get back to the WordPress session. This shortcode could be a lot better. But now that data has been entered – how do you use it – Wufoo reports.
The Wufoo Report Writer
As previously noted getting at Wufoo data and integrating that data with your Online, CMS, and/or local databases is one of the tasks that is challenging for Wufoo Forms. Everything must be done by data transfers. Wufoo forms do not draw on or supply collected form data either to users local databases or online server or WordPress database. Everything must be reported and transferred.
Fortunately, Wufoo has good if not great report writing capabilities. Here is a sample report:
Note it is live so click the the Export Data button in the upper right corner.
If you did click the Export Data button this is the dialog you will see:
The key to getting at your forms data beyond reports.
If you need to integrate data from several forms or link data from forms to your existing WordPress or server database, here is the prime Wufoo data connection. Excel files in XLS format for data analysis, text files in simple ASCII format for addional report writing and .csv format files for moving data into a database are avialable. Some users might expect either JSON format files or XML files. But whatever the case, users wanting to do high powered searches, querying and joins to other databases will likely have a transfer and conversion step before the Wufoo data is fully usable. This is the inherent trade-off with Wufoo – simple and easy form creation and data collection; but an added step or two to get the data fully integrated across a clients systems.
Finally contemplate the pricing for Wufoo:
Free services are truly entry level – 3 forms, 3 reports, 10 fields maximum in any form and 100 data entries per month. This is truly bare bones. Adhoc is the next step up at $15/month or $129 yearly which buys you ten forms, unlimited fields, 20 reports but still a fairly thin 500 form entries per month. For $259/year users finally qualify for 3000 form entries per month, unlimited field, forms and reports but a 1GB storage limit for all the forms, reports and data.
For users with 2-3 forms [even complicated ones with up to 10 fields] Wufoo’s free services are a no-brainer with one proviso – you can only record up to 100 total entries per month. To get really serious on forms entry, users will have to consider the Bona Fide plan for $259 per year in order to get SSL encryption, access to payment data and 3000 data entries per month. Clearly Wufoo makes its money on the data entries per month. And that is what users will have to take into account- ease of development and bare-bones operational costs versus potentially large transaction costs, loss of complete form layout flexibility and some downstream data integration problems. I have some clients that fit the Wufoo bargain perfectly and others that clearly don’t.It is your decision.