A while back, I was using Sharepoint 2007 to create some custom forms for data collection. Basically we wanted to capture customer feedback on a proposed design. We had a series of meetings and workshops with users, then after the meetings, I sent out a form to all attendees. I know what you are probably thinking, ah the dreaded “feedback form” that teachers or presenters often collect after class or the lecture is over. But these needed to be a bit more complicated then asking the users to rate the instructor on a scale of 1 to 5. We needed actual feedback on certain screens and designs for the application. Sharepoint’s forms worked OK for this, but they were a bit cumbersome so use, and required programming skills to truly take advantage of all the features Sharepoint offered. And of course, Sharepoint is expensive.
2 years later, and the options for easy to use, custom forms have increased dramatically. While there are many online programs that let you easily create dynamic forms (aka surveymoneky and clones), I just discovered that many programmers have also released free widgets for WordPress that function in a similar manner. I stumbled upon these while simply looking to re-create my contact form, and was surprised by the variety and amount of options that some of these widgets presented. With the ability to create custom forms using most of the garden-variety form controls you can think of (drop-downs, radio buttons, text input, even file uploads), you can create most any form you need. Some of the widgets also give you the ability to either email data from completed forms, or store it in a database. I created two quick forms below with 2 of the most popular form widgets from the WordPress site, and this is just scratching the surface as to what is possible.
I see these WordPress widgets as a very useful tool, with potential implications in a range of industries. While Worpress is not usually in the domain corporations or enterprise deployments, it can be a useful tool for many small businesses and entrepreneurs. Putting cheap and easy-to-use electronic data collection (EDC) into as many hands as possible is bound to be useful in a variety of industries, even with potential implications in healthcare and other data-intensive sectors, if security considerations can be ironed out. If you have positive experiences using these in your business, I would love to hear about it!