The Power of Online Data Collection

If you look on any web site, even the cheapest web sites you’ll find the “contact us” link which is usually a “form to email” tool that sends what’s typed into the contact us box to someone’s email address. This is the most extensive form that many web sites have.
However, when it comes to data collection, I’m amazed (maybe I shouldn’t be) with how many businesses still use manual methods of data collection in their business. Surveys, questionnaires, and other data entry requests are often paper based or through email and must be retyped into a database.
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Adding a form to your web site enables you to speed up data collection, increase the accuracy of data collection and reduce having to enter information twice. Collecting data via the Internet is not hard, nor expensive, you just have to know about the tools you can use to make the process easier.
FormSpring is an online form tool I’ve recently heard about. It’s features include the ability to create multi-page forms with conditional logic to hide non-applicable questions, you can even have calculation fields. FormSpring.com costs from $0 to $80 per month.
Other online databases (or web forms) include Google forms (part of Google Docs), DabbleDB, TrackVia and QuickBase. Quask, a tool I’ known about for years, is a very powerful tool for data capture (surveys, forms) as well.
Whenever I’m asked to help with a project, as one of the only technologists in the group, I’m always looking for ways that technology can be used to make something easier. Ways it can be used to reduce friction and bring more efficiency to the task at hand.
Online data collection through forms is definitely a way to reduce “friction”. Unfortunately, although the basic idea behind the online forms is the same, how they work is often quite different. For example, some tools allow users to upload documents, Google forms does not. These nuances you’ll only know from actually testing out the forms.

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Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com . Editor and Founder, Smart Hustle Magazine Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com . Check him out on Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook