It seems like the thing we are often trying to figure out the most as church communicators is how to get people signed up for stuff. Collecting information from people online is probably our preferred method as the whole sign up on paper option requires a lot of manual work to enter all of that data into a digital space anyway. Hence, online forms are the way to go. Even beyond event or volunteer sign ups, though, collecting useful information like media or communication requests through online forms is a great way to manage church communication tasks. So, without further persuading of the benefit to online forms, here’s a review of an online form builder that I’ve been using since I started as Director of Communication at my church: Cognito Forms.
Easy to Build
One of the best features of Cognito Forms is its ease of use. Building forms you use a simple drag and drop interface that allows you to choose items for your form and move them around with ease. You can choose from several prebuilt items like Name, Address, Email, and even Signatures. Add content that includes the ability to upload images into the form, organize groups of information into sections, and quickly copy and paste items you want to duplicate and you can have a form ready to go in a matter of minutes. A useful feature is the ability to add conditions to your form so certain items will show or change depending on user responses. It is a bit tricky to figure out and often requires testing the conditional formatting several times to make sure it works the way you want, but when you understand how to create the conditions you’ll love to use that feature.
Although form design is a whole topic in itself, one that I could probably spend a considerable amount of time discussing, here I want to highlight a few of the design options. Cognito Forms has a style editor that allows you to change the header text alignment, font choice, size, and color, and you can change the background. If you really want to personalize the form, you can upload your own image whether it is an event graphic or church branding.
There are several font choices to choose from, though it is limited, but you are able to manipulate the size and color, including your own custom colors. If you use the form link as its own page, you can change the background color to anything you like or upload an image. The one limitation for styling is that you don’t have a lot of control of the field styles. Often when creating a form, I tend to just recommend the “Chunk” option. This makes all of the fields bigger, which is ideal if you intend for your form to be used on mobile devices.
As church communicators we use a lot of digital tools. They don’t always play together very well, and often times you need to just work around what is available. For instance, collecting payments through forms would be a better user experience if it was done directly in the form. Cognito Forms does allow you to integrate payments into your forms, but it is limited to only PayPal, stripe, and Square. That’s not the most ideal if your church accepts payments and donations through a ChMS or other giving platform. If you collect money through a ChMS, then you’ll have to have a link in your form that takes the user away from it to complete the transaction. Not the best scenario, but it can work.
If you collect information that you would like to turn into tasks in a manager such as Asana or Basecamp, Cognito Forms does integrate with several platforms using an app like Zapier. If you have communication or design requests, once the form is submitted, the content from that form moves directly into a task for you or your team to keep track of. If you use WordPress, there is a plugin that allows you to build forms directly on your site without leaving.
One of my favorite features that Congito Forms offers is its embed option. Each form has unique share link when you publish the form. Usually you might just have a button or hyperlink on your website that directs people to the form. However, if you want the experience to always feel like your users are not leaving your site, Cognito Forms automatically generates seamless and iFrame embed code so you can keep your form directly on your own webpage—check out the form embedded at the end of this article!
I spend a lot of my time in my other job writing support articles. Cognito Forms has a great set of support articles! Anything you are trying to troubleshoot with your forms is probably answered in one of their articles. There hasn’t been an issue or feature I was trying to navigate that I didn’t find on their support site. If you are just getting started, spend some time reviewing some of the articles to get a sense of how to build forms. It is easy to jump right in and start building, but you should have no trouble if you get stuck.
To Sum Up
Cognito Forms is a great, affordable solution for building your own custom forms. With four pricing plan options that are very reasonable, you should have no problem choosing the right sized plan for your church. Cognito Forms is easy enough you can hit the ground running, but it is sophisticated enough that you can build some pretty elaborate forms, such as this communication request form here. Hopefully you found this article helpful. Why don’t you take the quick second and rate it below here using this simple form built with Cognito Forms.