In setting up Fan Pages on Facebook for a number of clients, there is often the need for a contact form so that Facebook users can contact a business right from Facebook. I decided to research several of the available online services that offer the creation and processing of forms, to determine which is best for setting up a form on a Static FBML application tab.
The services I checked out offer both free and paid plans. Either plan offers the same options in terms of form features etc. The difference with paid plans is in the number of different forms, or form recipients, or submissions you are allowed.
I looked at three services, Wufoo, Allforms and JotForm. I wanted to see which provided the most choice in terms of the form display/design, form validation (checking that required fields are filled in), and customization of the email the business receives from a form submission.
Although all three offer the ability to create fairly complex forms, this feature alone isn’t what I was looking for. I wanted a service that offered:
- Ease of use;
- Nice styling choices;
- Customized email notifications;
- Form validation (including CAPTCHA);
- Code that could be input into a Static FBML tab and function well.
Of the three services I checked out, Wufoo got disqualified right off the bat, as they just don’t offer a good option to insert the form code into a Static FBML tab. By their own admission, “I’m afraid we’re not working on any complex Facebook embedding or integration anytime soon.”
The good news is that both AllForms and JotForm do offer code that you can insert into the Static FBML tabs and with a number of styling and configuration options that are pretty great.
JotForm & Allforms Tutorials
Depending on which form service you choose, here are tutorials for ones I thought offered the best options for use on Facebook Static FBML tabs:
- Tutorial on using JotForm for your Facebook Static FBML tab »
- Tutorial on using Allforms for your Facebook Static FBML tab »
JotForm Form Builder
I think JotForms offers the best styling options. However, I could not get form validation to work in the Static FBML environment, and was advised in their forum: “Captcha will probably not work so you should probably remove that. You should probably also remove the form validations.”
However, unlike Wufoo, JotForms is at least somewhat aware of the emerging importance of being compatible with Facebook, and even offers a solution to adding a form you create in JotForms to Facebook. And their styling options were far superior to those offered by AllForms, with a number of one-click theme options for your form.
Another cool feature with JotForms is the ability to import forms from an existing Web page or a previously created Jot form, or from a number of form samples they offer. Very useful!
JotForm also offers more configuration options for the email you receive from someone who’s filled out the form, allowing you to have the “from” address be the user’s email and specifying the wording for the subject line.
Allforms — Free Form to Email
Although the styling options of Allforms forms are pretty limited (OK, extremely limited), their form validation will work in Facebook Static FBML tabs, and you can get the data emailed to you in a really nice format (if you choose the “HTML” email option).
Although the form validation works (in fact, not having validation is NOT an option with the free plan), it takes the user to a page where they are informed that they haven’t filled in the required field and they have to use their back button to get back to the form. But, hey, it works, and it’ll reduce spam.
As with JotForm, you can specify a URL to which to redirect the user after they have submitted the form. But you can’t configure the email to have the “from” address be the person who submitted the form.
Allforms lets you create a form processor to handle your existing form!
The feature that I thought really made Allforms a great choice is that you can use your own HTML form and use their service to create a form processor to handle it. So for those who have an HTML form and just need an online form-processing service, Allforms is the choice.
At HyperArts we offer Static FBML templates for sale, some with forms, and the form processing is always where our customers get hung up, in not being able to upload and configure their own form processor. Allforms takes care of this. Awesome!
Here is a sample form I created with Allforms for use on Facebook. Although you can get rid of or change the colors, you can’t eliminate those big numbers on the left … you would have to manually remove them from the provided code.
So which online form service is best for Facebook?
For appearance, I would say JotForm, hands down. And it has more email-notification options.
If form validation is important (and it should be), then Allforms is a better choice. And it even offers a CAPTCHA function that works! Their email notification offers lots of information that JotForm’s doesn’t, such as URL of the form and IP address of the sender, as well as a best-guess country of origin.
If you have CSS / HTML skills, you can change the markup of the Allform-provided code to suit your taste. Or you can create your form, and CSS, outside of Allform and just use their form-processing service.
Ajax & HyperArts to the Rescue — Ajax-Powered Static FBML Contact Tab!
HyperArts offers a great Ajax-driven form template that includes validation and total flexibility with design and customization. Our form validates the user’s submission (checking required fields) and submits the form without the user ever leaving the form page. After submitting the form, the user is presented with a “thank you” message and the form disappears. The only requirement is that you have access to a hosting server with PHP installed. See it in action on our HyperForms Fan Page »