Form Handlers – More than Just Emailers

You can create all the the forms you want in HTML, but unless you have a form handler the information in the form will just sit there.  The form handler works behind the scenes or what developers call the back end and take the information in the form, process it and do something with it.  It might send the form data to one email address, or many email addresses.  It might put the form data in a database or a Google Drive spreadsheet.  Let’s take a look at what form handlers are capable of.

Form Handlers Validate the Data

Form Handlers and what they can do for you.All form handlers should take the data from the form and always process it to remove potential malicious code, but server-side validation is important even if you have validation on the front-end.  A good form handler will make sure an email address is formatted correctly and will check for a list of spam words in the comment section.  An even better form handler will communicate with the email server and verify that the email address actually exists.

Form Handlers Can Format the Data

If you receive your form data by email it makes sense to have it formatted nicely.  A good form handler should allow you to format the way the email appears in your email inbox so that it is easily actionable.  You should be able to click “reply” to the email and respond to the person who filled out the form – not be redirected to your own email server.

Form Handlers Can Save the Data

Whether you are collecting registrations or gathering data for a report, you may want to say the form information in a way that make it easy to retrieve and manipulate the data.  A form handler can save the data to a database, or if you use Google Drive, add the information to a spreadsheet.

Form Handlers Can Respond

Form handlers can send confirmationsWhat happens when your client fills out the form?  Do they receive a response by email?  Or maybe get redirected to a thank you page?  Or both?  Instead of generic responses a form handler can be coded to provide information or confirmation to the user.  Imagine:

  1. The user clicks a checkbox to know more about summer event.  The thank you page displays a custom response about Summer events, along with links to relevant pages on your site and a confirmation that someone will be in touch.
  2. A user comments that they are having problems with something.  The form handler detects the keyword “problem” and sends a copy of the form to your key problem solver as well as you.
  3. A series of checkboxes on the form allow the user to request different brochures.  The form handler could automatically send an email with PDFs of the requested brochures and you could then follow up personally.

How Do I Get a Form Handler?

If you are using a plugin or service, the form handler will be included, but you may not be able to customize it much.  The best option is a custom-coded form handler that will do exactly what you need it to do.  Look for a developer with PHP and Javascript experience or (shameless plug alert!) contact me for a quote.  I’ve done hundreds of forms and can put together a form handler that will do exactly what you need.

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