What Are Smart Forms?

By Art Harrison | Smart Forms

Aug 24

Not entirely sure what smart forms are? You’ve come to the right place. Here’s what they are, their hallmark features, and why you might want to use them.

Whenever we’re describing the FormHero platform, we often get asked:

What are smart forms?

It’s a fair question, and we thought we’d set the record straight. Here we go!

What are smart forms?

In their simplest rendition, smart forms are a digital version of an existing process that relies on real-time answers to previous questions to dynamically change what the user sees next. It’s like someone sitting down with a user and saying ‘oh, we can skip this section, because it doesn’t apply.’ Only it happens automatically with every single user, every single time.

For example, imagine that you were signing up to your employer benefits. One of the questions might be:

Do you have any dependents?

Normally, this question is going to be followed by pages of paperwork or digital fields you’re supposed to fill out if you’ve got kids.

But what if you don’t have any kids? What if you’re single?

A smart form wouldn’t show you those questions at all. As soon as you say ‘no’ to the dependents question, it can take that into consideration when picking the user flow that’s best for you.

However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg to what smart forms can do.

Digital functionality

Since smart forms are a digital tool, there’s plenty of added functionality to provide a better user experience beyond only showing questions that are relevant to the user. For example, our forms can:

  • Pre-fill and auto-fill information from external sources, reducing how long it takes for forms to be completed.
  • Create questions that can be answered in different ways like multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, select from a dropdown, choose a picture, move a slider, select multiple options, or just type in an answer.
  • Validate answers with masks/pre-set validation rules, so users can’t enter incorrect information by accident (e.g. SIN number validators, so you can’t accidentally type your SIN incorrectly).

Obviously, these functions exist outside the world of smart forms. Websites have used this sort of interactivity for years. Take Netflix, for example:

netflix screenshot

They use icons like the magnify glass and the bell to mean search and notifications. More importantly, they use cover images for speedy recognition for each of their shows. Mad Max: Fury Road features Immortan Joe; House of Cards features Frank Underwood.

This isn’t just to make the page look good and drive clicks – image recognition is a lot faster. Put simply, if you’re looking for House of Cards, you’ll recognize the smug gaze of Frank before your brain even has a chance to read ‘House of Cards’.

Smart forms didn’t invent this stuff. But what they do is bring these features into forms for a better user experience that can be deployed, updated, and changed far faster than a website.

Dynamic outputs

Finally, smart forms can collect data digital and automatically convert it into whatever format you need it in. JSON/XML outputs, for example, allow data to be shared to virtually any digital system with secure APIs. Alternatively, smart forms can be used to generate completed PDFs, ready to be printed out and signed/sent to an eSignature provider.

For example, our platform lets users set what outputs they want for a specific smart form/process. Let’s say you are running an onboarding process and you want the data fed directly into Salesforce and emailed to the sales team and printed out for a physical copy and emailed to the head of sales for verification.

Why you would want all of this, no one knows, but smart forms let you set this up once and then have every customer after that flow through this process automatically. This works because the data is captured in a flexible way.

So to summarize smart forms…

  • Smart forms are a digital tool used to capture information online.
  • They combine the functions of paperwork/online forms with UX/website design to make information as easy as possible for users to provide…
  • … and do so in a flexible and dynamic way, allowing the data can be manipulated or used however and wherever organizations want.

Smart forms (or, our smart forms at least) make processes better and allow organizations like banks and insurance companies to bring a better user experience to their front end without overhauling (or even changing) their back end processes.

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About the Author

Co-founder of FormHero.