By: Formstack, LLC
Formstack is one of the more popular web form apps among the ones we have reviewed so far. It would be a mistake to refer to Formstack as merely a form app; We would instead call it a “Form app and data management tool.”
This is because besides form building, acquiring and sorting data, Formstack offers many add-ons for advanced reports, data analysis, and complex workflows plus more.
All of its inbuilt and integrated features make Formstack one of the most complete and secure form app out there.
As most form apps do, Formstack enables organizations to design web forms without any programming or software skills. Users can create web forms supported on any device using pre-made templates and a drag-drop editor, and define workflows for timely collection and approval of form data.
Formstack (then called FormSpring) was founded in 2006 by Ade Olonoh and presently serves over half a million users across 112 countries. Formstack has its headquarters in Indianapolis, IN with an office in Colorado Springs, CO – both in the USA.
In late 2009, Formstack had launched formspring.me - a social question and answer site for people to question their friends online.
Because of its success, formspring.me was made a separate company in early 2010 with an independent team of its own, while the then FormSpring took on the name of Formstack to distinguish itself from its much popular creation.
Formstack was initially meant to be a simple online form builder but has started to provide advanced workflow and data management services as of late.
As Formstack offers many of the advanced workflow and data management tools as paid add-ons, this review is dedicated to its base form features without the power of add-ons. The discussion of the base features will help to compare Formstack to other web form apps.
Firstly, we will talk of the Formstack’s user interface sections including homepage, dashboard, Form editor with build and style sections, and more.
Shown below is the top portion of the user’s homepage for Formstack. On top is the navigation menu with Dashboard, Forms, and Portals tabs. By default, the Dashboard tab is opened upon login.
On the far right of the navigation tab, are the icons for options like add-ons, account, support, and notifications. All of them have associated options like account and user settings under the account tab, and support and video tutorial options under support. Below the navigation tab, is the search bar for questions and queries.
The dashboard houses links to recent forms along with their views and submission stats, and new form button under the ‘My Most Recent Forms’ section.
‘My Themes’ section shows a list of themes saved by the user, clicking on them opens up a pop-up menu of links to all forms using the particular design theme. Under the list of user themes is the button to create a new one, which directs you to the Style Editor.
Other than that, it has some team options under Invite Your Team section and help and FAQs widgets with links to relevant sections of resources and support. Note that all of the discussion so far and moving forth is based on our two weeks’ free trial of a company-level plan. So the user experience and mentioned sections and options may vary a little.
Shown above are the contents under the Forms tab of the main navigation menu. As can be seen, it is the storage and organization space. The left pane lists folders that house various forms and options to archive and delete old forms or create new folders. The right window pane lists the contents of the selected folder in the left pane. It also has options on top to move, copy, archive and delete selected forms; and options for edit, change settings, share submissions, and analytics.
The Portal’s tab can only be accessed with the Portals add-on. It has options to manage your form replies and streamline your form processes. You can then share forms in a group with people in or outside your organization, irrespective of them having a Formstack account.
Click on the Create New Form link, either in the Dashboard or the Form’s section to begin making a new form. This opens up a new form dialog box.
It has options to select from a list of three kinds of the form (the no. may vary depending on the plan) as shown in the image below.
We will select the first option as we want to get a glimpse of Formstack’s base features.
The other options under Create New Form dialog box are to name the form and last section of form URL which refers to the form (by default it’ll be the same as Form Name).
Also, you can select form language and begin either with a blank form or a template.
Let’s begin with a template to see what kinds of template options Formstack offers.
Selecting to begin with a template brings you to the Template preview dialog box shown below.
As can be seen there are in all 42 form templates listed under the All category in Filter by Category section. The other ten categories in here are Education, HR, IT, Lead Gen, Sales, Non-profit, Healthcare, Finance, Personal, and Other.
The number of templates does not impress compared to other form apps like 123FormBuilder, FormGet, and others.
But considering that Formstack targets professionals, businesses, and organization, it has appropriate and apt templates categorized accordingly. The user can tweak the contents and settings of a suitable template to make a desirable form.
The Template preview dialog box also has a search feature and preview section to find and preview the contents of the selected template before you choose to begin with it.
Clicking the Next button after selecting the template, takes you to the Themes Dialog Box to choose from 14 available themes or you may also move on with your template’s default theme.
Clicking the Finish button will lead to the Form Builder with your selected template and theme settings preloaded or a blank form in the case you opt for it.
These options to select template and theme at the very beginning are useful to save time building your forms and put them to work with minimal editing on the user’s part.
The editor is the core section of a form app where various content and design elements of a form are put together. It may often contain some settings options which vary with different form apps. Let’s see what does Formstack’s Form Editor offers.
Shown above is the Formstack’s Form Editor window. It’s loaded with a blank form template, but in case if you decide to use a template at this point, there is a template’s Dropbox to choose a suitable template.
Formstack offers a guided tour of the Form Editor upon your first visit, introducing the Build and Style modes of the sidebar with various sections of options under each, history and undo/redo and form extras options.
The options sidebar is a regular feature among many form apps, but Formstack has two modes of operation for the sidebar – Build, to add and edit form contents, and Style, to set and alter themes and design options.
On top of the form, space is the History option which lists the track of every change you make to the form from latest to old. In case of an unwanted edit or a series of them, you can check the changes under History and use Undo, and Redo buttons to rectify mistakes.
Under the Form Extras menu option on top of the form space is an option to set custom identifier for the form (generally email Id, or any other number or ID field is used as a custom identifier to identify forms in databases). This custom identifier is useful to define some workflow settings and can be listed as the first column in Form reports in settings.
Other options under Form Extras section are to enable options like Recaptcha, Save and Resume, One question at a time, and multi-page options like progress bar among a few others.
Now, coming to the adding and editing of form contents and sections, we will only discuss it briefly as it requires an article in its own.
You can choose from Basic and Advanced field options under Build-mode sidebar to add required fields to your form. Drag and drop the field of choice to the desired location in the form page to add it to your form. You can also select the Section option in the sidebar to add a new section of options.
Selecting a particular field or section of the form will present under Build-mode sidebar the option to configure it. The options for field configuration under Build-mode sidebar are categorized under sections of Logic, General and Field specific.
Some general options include Field label, Supporting text, options such as required, hide, hide the label, etc. Field-specific options change based on the type of selected field, for example in case of a Number field, the options are to set minimum and maximum values, specify up to six decimal places, etc.
You may also select an entire section and choose settings such as section heading, label position, and no. of columns for the entire section. Also, at the bottom of these section settings in the Build mode sidebar are the options to save and delete the section.
Save section button saves the section in the Saved Sections list at the bottom of the Build mode sidebar. These saved sections can be easily added to any form from here.
After having added the contents of your form, select the Style mode from Build/Style toggle to see the Style sidebar options. The Style sidebar option shows the Themes list of twelve built-in and other user-defined themes to choose from. Try to find a suitable theme by applying and previewing them.
There is a Create Theme button to define custom style settings for your home. The style options under here are divided into Quick Styles – form colors, form fonts, form sizes, spacing, and style; Advanced Styles – further sub-divided into specific options for form fields, sections, buttons, advanced fields, and general options.
At the very bottom is the Advanced Code Editor to add custom CSS to the form.
After having define all of the needed properties, you can rename and save the theme for use in the future. It gets added to the Themes List, from where it can be applied to other forms, edited and deleted.
The full demonstration of the Formstack’s Form Editor is out of scope, but the discussion so far gives an overview. One must experience the Form Editor first-hand to find out about all its capabilities. Each time you’ll find something new.
After form creation and theme setting, the next in line of form app processes is to define form settings. The settings option defines what your form can or cannot do and establishes a pathway to achieving what’s to be done.
The settings are a significant factor in the productivity credential for a form app. It defines everything from the viewer experience, the data collection, notifications, and payments to data storage, management, and analysis.
To go to the settings window, click the settings menu tab in the main Forms’ menu on top of the Form editor which houses other options like Share, Submissions, Analysis, and Conversion Kit.
The settings window of Formstack categorizes settings under eight sections, namely General, Emails & Actions, Security, User Access, Approvals, Integrations, Plugins, and Advanced PDFs.
In this section, we’ll discuss some of the important settings options.
The General settings are further categorized as Basic and Advanced settings. The Basic settings section has options to rename, disable, and enable forms, along with changing URL and time-zone for submissions.
The Advanced Settings include two radio boxes to choose whether to add form response data to the database or not and to append filed IDs to the filename in the submissions datasheet.
Under Emails and Actions tab is the setting to define if and when (using conditional logic), you get email notifications about submissions. You can also change email ID to receive notification or Add Notification.
Click on Add Notification button to add a custom notification to one or more email IDs. It opens up a new window within the Formstack to define new notification details. You may Copy Email Settings from a dropdown of existing notifications or set them individually.
The options to define individual settings are to name the custom email, decide to use default or custom email ID to send the notification, add form contents or custom message to email content, and attachment options.
Another option under Emails and Actions settings is to choose to show a default submission message or to add a customized message. Under Advanced Settings for this section, you can define Webhooks or choose integrations to send submission data to them directly.
Security settings have basic options to disable or add form password, and advanced settings to add PGP key for email encryption and encryption settings for saved data.
Under User Access and Approvals sections are the options to grant or revoke access of form to users and add users to the list of users with access and add email IDs to the list of approvers for approvals of form submission. Each of the approvers in this list must approve form submissions for it to be marked as approved.
Under Integrations and Plugins sections are the options to integrations and plugins to add to your forms and set them up. Some plugins are part of Conversion kit add-on, but others which you may include without add-ons to enhance the capabilities for your form are Discount Codes and Tax Rules under payments, and confirmation page, field auto-fill and share buttons under utilities.
Lastly, under Advanced PDFs are the options to change default settings for exported PDFs and PDFs that are attached to notification and confirmation emails. You may select which form fields and metadata including form URL, source IP, and Submission-ID to add or not to the PDFs.
Also, there is an option to choose whether you want one submission per PDF in a zipped folder or a consolidated submissions PDF. At last, you may have a preview of what the report PDFs will look like.
The major takeaways from the above description of Formstack’s form settings are as follows:
Standard Email notification options with an added feature to copy the settings of existing notification to the new notification. Also, you can add multiple recipients for notifications separated by commas.
Option to define a portion of the Form URL, which is not included in the form apps that we have reviewed so far.
Security is a priority for Formstack with options like password protection, PGP protection for emails, and data encryption.
User can access features like auto-fill, Discount codes, and confirmation pages for the viewer to confirm form details before submission under the plugins section of Settings.
All the form content, designs, notification, and security settings are futile until you publish your forms on appropriate platforms to collect desired information from your users, customers, or subscribers.
The publishing options in Formstack can be accessed under the Share menu tab in the Forms’ main menu.
Clicking on the share tab opens a window of options with six tabs of options to publish your forms. The six mentioned tabs are: Quick start, URL links, Embed form, CMS, Social Media, and Advanced.
The Quick Start tab allows you to quickly copy the URL link and HTML code of the form to share it via email, SMS, or Chat; and paste it to the HTML section your website respectively.
Under URL links are available again the URL of the form and also a QR code.
The Embed form tab has three embed options –
Under the CMS tab are the options to connect to various platforms and share your forms directly via Wordpress plugin, Drupal Module, or TypePad Widget.
Social Media tab has set up instructions to install Formstack’s Facebook Tab Application to share all your forms via your Facebook.
The Advanced tab has the complete HTML of the form to add it to another website, and Form Forwarding code to send users to the form page upon submission of an intermediate form with default values.
So, as far as publishing is considered, Formstack has the traditional links and embed codes, plus Facebook tab app, Wordpress plugin, Drupal module, and TypePad widget to publish user’s forms and surveys.
Also, Formstack’s various email marketing, CRM, and Social integrations like AWeber, Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, HubSpot, and Twitter can be set up to publish your forms.
Thus, its in-built features plus its integrations, allow Formstack to offer a host of publishing options which are more than enough.
In case you use software for Emails or marketing not integrated to Formstack, you can choose to send notifications to that app via adding a Webhook under Advanced Settings for Emails & Actions.
Most of the form apps provide some fundamental submissions report and data analysis features.
Formstack offers advanced data analytics like UTM tracking, Google Analytics, and Field Bottlenecks as part of its marketing add-on called Conversion Kit.
But it also has in house fundamental Report, and Analytics features under the Submissions and Analytics tabs of the Forms’ main menu.
Let’s first have a look at the Submissions menu because it has some useful features to filter out the submissions data and import old data in CSV format (in case you used some other form app or customized forms before), adapt and add it to the Submissions data of your Formstack form.
Above is an image showing the Submission sheet with one submission for a newly created form. It is for reference, and over time, the rows and pages in the report may increase.
Here you can see three tabs, namely Submissions, Partial Submissions, and Charts. The Submissions tab is the main area which shows by default the report in sheet row form for all submission, but you may apply conditional filters to display specific submissions and even share various parts of the report.
To apply a filter, click the Create Custom filter button, fill in the name of filter and filtering criteria which could include form fields or metadata, and save the filter.
You can choose the appropriate data filter from the dropdown in the Submissions section. It has options of All submissions, Read and Unread Submissions, and Custom filters (user-defined filters).
To share your filtered report with anyone, apply the filter, and click on sharing button in the Submissions section, which will generate a unique URL for your filtered data. Also, here is a drop-down to turn off sharing or choosing to share only charts, tables, and charts, or everything.
Choose to hide or unhide fields from Submissions data and more from the Table settings icon on far right. There are import and export links on the top of the datasheet and the far right respectively.
The Partial Submissions and Charts tabs show partially filled form or abandoned data, and allow users to choose to show or share default charts.
The Analytics menu tab of the Forms’ main menu shows in timeline form the no. of form views and conversions, i.e., submissions. You can choose the range of time from today, past week, past month and also set custom timeframe.
On the top, it shows stats like Unique views, conversions, conversion rate, abandonment, and abandonment rate. You may click on the Reset Data button to reset the counter to zero to reanalyze the performance of the forms from that point on.
Unfortunately, you cannot export or download this timeline stat. But you can export the report under Submissions in various formats such as CSV, PDF, Excel spreadsheet, RTF, or directly send to Webmerge.
Plus, you can choose to add this report to the list of attached PDFs in Email notifications to share it via email or integrate with any available data analysis integration under Integrations in Emails & Actions tab of Forms’ settings options.
Thus, with its inbuilt Reports and Charts features available under Submissions and Analysis tabs of Forms’ menu, Formstack provides essential report generation, filtering, sharing and simple analysis which should suffice the needs of a regular user.
For advanced data analysis, users can use opt for Conversion Kit add-on with many advanced marketing tools to put your data to use to generate and close new leads.
A marquee feature of Formstack is its add-ons which are available for an additional fee. Add-ons are packages with exclusive features and advanced integrations for streamlining your workflows, data sharing among multiple users irrespective of their being part of your Formstack team and other specific purposes.
Currently, Formstack’s website mentions five add-ons, namely Offline forms, Conversion Kit, Portals, Workflows, and Advanced integrations.
The Offline Forms add on allows the user’s team to collect submissions from the field without them being at their desk all the time. It is useful for Sales personnel, Technical reports, etc.
The Conversion Kit add-on is for marketing and advanced data analysis. Some of its features to name are UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) Tracking, Google Analytics, Form A/B testing, Field Bottlenecks, and Social Autofill. We have mentioned briefly about some of these like A/B testing and Social Autofill in previous sections.
The Portals add-on is to meant to streamline sharing of forms among different teams like Marketing, Finance, and Sales, and time-bound collection of data. It allows users to create Form portals and share these portals with people within his/her Formstack team or even anyone not on Formstack.
Then, the user may also set due dates for the forms to be filled, automate email reminders to the portal members, and track his/her forms.
The Workflows add-on is for businesses and enterprises to create and manage their workflows. The framework of the Workflows add-on is adding participants to your account, categorize users by assigning user types, and get usage details for each user to manage your workflows. The user can assign, manage, and complete tasks with ease through his/her personalized Workspace.
Last, but not the least among the Formstack extras is its native form builder for Salesforce. It would be wrong to call it an add-on as it a complete product in its own, and it’s custom made for Salesforce users with no hassle of connectors or integrations.
We have not used Formstack’s Salesforce app. So, it’s description, analysis, and review are subject to a thorough evaluation, which is out of scope here. But judging from our experience of its parent app and many user reviews, it is safe to say that it’s as good as its parent.
So, that was a brief introduction to Formstack’s arsenal of add-ons. The add-ons, not only provide powerful tools to manage and analyze your forms, but also define, schedule, and manage the process flow of your data.
Now, its time to sum up our discussion of the Formstack form app with our views and opinions in brief.
Formstack has a drag-drop style editor to create and edit forms, with simple interface providing sufficient tools and utilities to make and manage forms, its fields, and sections. An important feature of Formstack editor, Build History is available under the History tab of the editor menu along with the undo and redo options.
User can track the changes he/she makes to the forms under History and undo or redo changes accordingly to get back the desired results. Another key editor feature of Formstack is that it auto-saves any changes, ridding the user of the headache of manual saving.
So, as far as the Form Editor is concerned, Formstack has all the requisites adhering to industry norms and some more. Being extremely critical, one can count a lack of access to various saved versions of the form under History as a drawback. One can’t directly go back to last saved settings and must rely on undo and redo options along with the list of changes, which can be tiresome.
A major putoff of Formstack is the lack of vastness and a seeming outdatedness of form templates and themes. The developers must add new and fresh themes as well some sleek templates for Sales and Personal sections.
While talking about drawbacks, another one with Formstack is the lack of live chat-based support. Many form apps and other SaaS software provide chat options.
But these mentioned criticisms are only far-fetched and may be attributed to Formstack’s focus on data management service for small to big organizations, Business firms, hospitals, and NGOs.
Fundamentally, with its advanced process flow add-ons, more generic and formal templates and themes, Formstack aims to target small or medium sized businesses or entrepreneurs and organizations.
But this is not to say that it is not meant for general purpose forms as it has all the tools and ample options of templates and design themes to create any kind of form from a simple contact form, registration forms with payment block, to surveys. And all this is available with its base features which also has standard reports and data analytics and everything that any other form app has to offer.
Apart from all the base features, there are plugins (in settings options), add-ons, and advanced integrations available on extra payment basis. User may request some add-ons to test during the free trial to see if they would like to include them in their subscription.
So, our opinion of Formstack is no different than any other review or analysis you can find on the web or otherwise. The user reviews for Formstack are positive and rightfully so as it is by far the most complete form app in terms of tools and features that we have reviewed.