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Adobe Business Catalyst: Building Web Forms to Gather Visitor Data

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In this chapter, you'll take a look at how the Business Catalyst Platform gathers information submitted by visitors and stores it in the database. This is a powerful component of the online business, because the data obtained by interested visitors can be used in a variety of ways.
This chapter is from the book


Examining the Contact Form on the Trial Site


Accessing Form Data in the Dashboard of the Admin Console


Understanding Workflows


Editing Web Forms


Adding Web Forms to Web Pages in Dreamweaver


Using the Module Manager to Insert Web Form Module Tags


Creating Web Forms with the Web Form Builder


Adding Web Forms to Pages with the 1-Click Insert Menu


Overview of Working with Web Forms


Previously, you learned how the site's database stores and displays dynamic data in modules. The creation and display of module data enables you to create interactive features and develop compelling websites.

In this chapter, you'll take a look at how the Business Catalyst Platform gathers information submitted by visitors and stores it in the database. This is a powerful component of the online business, because the data obtained by interested visitors can be used in a variety of ways, including to:

  • Generate an online community of like-minded people
  • Track activities of specific customers to discover business trends
  • Create recipient lists to send newsletters and e-mail campaigns
  • Respond to product sales inquiries and schedule appointments
  • Process online payment transactions
  • Remind attendees about upcoming events and reservation bookings
  • Enable registered visitors to log in to secure zones
  • Send personalized anniversary greetings and annual service reminders
  • Provide online help and manage customer support cases

Ultimately, these activities are used to convert visitors into customers.

Good communication is critical when interacting with potential customers. Web forms enable visitors to contact the business in a way that is more professional than simply providing an e-mail address. The user experience can include an online confirmation message and a personalized auto-reply e-mail message that is sent after each form submission.

The system makes it easy for your clients to access and track customer data, so that they can reply to inquiries in a timely manner. The Admin Console provides an overview of customer information in the Dashboard and includes an intuitive report system to locate specific records.

Web forms are completely customizable, facilitating the collection of data that is specific to a particular business. When you create a form for the site, you add the fields to define the data that is collected. You can add preconfigured fields, such as username, e-mail, and password. You can also make custom fields to tailor the input elements to match the theme of a site. Custom fields can capture data such as birth dates, gender, location, product models, and shoe sizes. Using reports, you can easily retrieve this information to learn more about your customers and their preferences. Businesses can use this specialized information to engage with their customers and connect with them on a more personal level.

You can also obtain feedback by including specific questions in your forms:

  • Where did you hear about us?
  • Would you like to subscribe to the newsletter?
  • What time is most convenient to contact you?

When asking for personal data, it is a best practice to make the fields optional, rather than required, so that visitors do not feel overwhelmed. If you ask too many questions, they may decide not to submit the form at all.

All of the features in Business Catalyst, including web forms, are integrated into a single, centralized database. The data added to modules (as described in Chapter 4, "Configuring, Inserting, and Customizing Modules") is stored along with the customer data so that all the details of the site are easy to retrieve in the Admin Console.

To get started, you'll explore the trial site from the visitor's perspective, to see how the customer data is submitted. The template for the trial site includes a prebuilt contact form that you'll use in the next section to submit data and see how the system works.

Examining the Contact Form on the Trial Site

Every site should provide visitors with a method to contact the business. In the early days of the Web, the contact page typically included an e-mail address, telephone number, and snail-mail address. However, e-mail addresses are problematic because they may contain typographical errors. Messages might wind up in a junk folder or the Inbox of an employee who is out of the office.

Web forms are vastly superior to e-mail addresses because they can include notification workflows and route submissions to multiple addresses behind the scenes, to ensure inquiries are answered quickly. Additionally, contact forms can use image verification (CAPTCHA, which stands for Completely Automatic Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) to prevent spambots from scraping sites to gather e-mail addresses for malicious purposes.

Because every inquiry is tracked within the system, the business can ensure that no messages go unanswered.

Visit the trial site in a browser. Click the Contact Us menu item to visit the Contact page and access the form (FIGURE 5.1).

Figure 5.1

Figure 5.1 The Contact page contains an HTML contact form.

Required fields of the form are marked with asterisks, and the code used to create the form includes form field validation. If you attempt to submit the form without providing the required data, an alert message is displayed (FIGURE 5.2).

Figure 5.2

Figure 5.2 If you skip a required field, the form reminds you to enter the missing data.

Be sure to complete the form. You can enter bogus data if you'd like, but you can view the process more completely if you enter a valid e-mail address. If you use a real e-mail address and you check the account after submitting the form, you'll see an auto-responder e-mail message generated by the system.

When you submit the form, a Thank You page appears with a summary of the information that you submitted (FIGURE 5.3).

Figure 5.3

Figure 5.3 The form data is displayed on the page so that visitors can review their submission.

The summary is helpful because if visitors make a mistake when they enter their information, they may catch their error and resubmit the form immediately to correct it. It also emphasizes that their entry was successfully received, to promote a better user experience.

Now that you've entered some data in the contact form, you'll play the role of the business owner and see how the submitted form data is displayed in the Admin Console. You'll see how web forms are more than a message delivery system; they enable businesses to leverage customer data and convert inquiries into sales opportunities.

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