Feedback Forms

Feedback Forms can be used to request information from your web site visitors. The details they provide are then delivered to you by email.

They are ideal if you want to collect structured information for a specific task, such as requests to add a link to your web site or a survey. They can also be used for simple application forms, especially if the questions are straightforward and can be completed without needing to refer to additional material. They are also useful when it is necessary to ensure certain information is obtained up front, such as for registration details or sales lead pre-qualification.

The layout of the feedback form works best when it is kept as simple as possible. You can have single line text boxes for names and phone numbers, popup menus for selecting from a list of options, radio buttons for single answer selections such as male or female, checkboxes for selecting all those that apply from a choice of options, and text areas for longer messages to be entered. When the details are submitted an email is sent from the server to your email address.

You can set up your email address to forward to multiple recipients or send an autoreply message back to the visitor’s email account, to acknowledge receipt. It is customary to make it a minimum requirement for the visitor to provide their name and email address to ensure that you have at least one way of contacting them but it also helps to prevent abuse.

Scripts can be added to the feedback form to check the details are entered correctly before being sent, such as date validation and number checking. This is useful if the details are destined to become part of a database but it does require thorough testing.

The Problem with Feedback Forms

Unfortunately Feedback Forms are frequently misunderstood and abused. They are really only of limited use since most people prefer to use the phone or send an email instead.

Sometimes a Feedback Form is offered as the only method of contact because the owner doesn’t want to disclose their contact details. However this may contravene Distance Selling Regulations.

You can also find some Feedback Forms with excessive requests for information with lots of ‘required’ details. This is done because the owner hasn’t really thought through their requirements and may be looking for an insight into irrelevant background information. However this may contravene The Data Protection Act 1998 which states that data collected must be “adequate, relevant and not excessive”.

Some Feedback Forms seem programmed to annoy when they reject phone numbers with spaces or don’t understand that a name might have more than 15 characters. Scripts can sometimes do more harm than good.

Feedback Forms are not suitable for credit card processing, even if the form is placed on a secure server, because the resulting email from the server is sent to you by an insecure method. It is better to use the secure services of a third party card merchant such as PayPal for handling online payments.

Therefore before adding a Feedback Form to your web site we recommend you consider whether a phone number and email address might be more appropriate. They are much easier to use and will have a higher response rate.