In the past, a data collection form was mostly associated with scientific or academic research. In today’s time and date, it’s a core part of every business strategy. To maximize efficiency and, well, almost any aspect of their operations, companies need data on the market, leads, customers, competitors, trends, behaviors, and more!
The quality of your data determines the quality of the strategies drawn from it. And, the quality of the data depends on the efficiency of your data collection method.
Therefore, in this article, we offer you an in-depth guide into how to create a data collection form that:
- Engages your audience;
- Offers a pleasant experience;
- Provides you with the data in the correct format;
- Collects & stores data automatically in an organized, actionable manner.
In other words, you are about to learn how to collect data in a way that keeps up with the consumer demands for quality experiences.
Data collection is, quite simply, a systematic process of gathering and analyzing information, companies engage in, for instance, to find solutions to problems or ways to improve. A data collection form is a way of getting and recording that data so you can perform the analysis in question. It’s one of the most widely used research tools and methods.
Besides giving a straightforward structure and focus to the research, it also gives you the great benefit of posterity as it documents how you approached research on previous occasions. Hence, you are able to repeat, extend, and improve your processes with an overview.
Data collection forms evolved from a piece of paper to a PDF doc and, at last, an online form often powered up with rich elements (e.g., a calendar popup when a date is requested) that speed up the filling in process. Online forms reigned data collection for years. Actually, they are still riding the wave of success. However, recently, there has been a shift towards a friendlier, more responsive, and more personalized experience provided by conversational forms.
Conversational forms, like your typical forms, ask questions and data inputs BUT in an instant-chat-like manner. This approach makes the experience far more natural for the end-user and also easier to adapt to a variety of devices. Furthermore, it brings instantaneity to data collection as it gathers all inputs progressively, in real-time, as opposed to all at once after the user presses “Submit” at the end.
Conversational data collection is a growing trend that’s spreading like wildfire thanks to no-code online form builders like Landbot that let you create a form using a simple drag-and-drop interface.
However, the best part is, it supports and even strengthens data collection form best practices:
The collect-as-you-go approach also enables real-time personalization using conditional “if-this-then-that” logic. Hence, conversational data collection forms let you only ask the questions pertinent to each individual or a group. Thus you can create a single form that serves more group types and still only collect what you need.
Many paper-based or PDF forms include feature data fields that are necessary but you might already have that information or it can be obtained another way.
Conversational forms can be easily integrated with your database and autofill data such as name and surname or use “behind-the-scenes” signals to fill in things such as geolocation, date and time, browser type, etc. Alternatively, they can also provide users with responsive auto-filling (e.g. the selection appears after the user types the first letter(s), common when providing address information).
Conversational data collection forms can help enhance usability with the use of help text only when requested to prevent cluttering. Better yet, they enable you to use rich elements to keep things interesting including buttons, images, carousels, scales, and more.
Normally, researchers try to keep their forms as short as possible to avoid deterring people from filling them in. However, this approach negatively affects your ability to collect the necessary data as some questions are left out. Since conversational forms “serve” questions one by one in a natural chat setting, the length doesn’t play such a significant role. It’s a small benefit on top of conditional logic helping you optimize the form length and relevance already.
Conversational forms are easy to distribute as they can be adapted to a variety of devices as well as channels. A conversational form can work, for instance, as a landing page, pop-up or a conversation on WhatsApp. Furthermore, thanks to the integrations & conditional logic, you can export and sort the data in real-time (e.g. by sending them to Google Sheets, Airtable, or to your in-house database)
Conversational data collection forms are powerful and they are also fairly simple to create.
Sounds too good to be true?
Well, it’s not.
Now, I will show you how to create a data collection form in the shape of an automated conversation with just a few simple drag and drops using Landbot chatbot builder.
So, if you want to follow along but don’t have a Landbot account just yet, now is the time to sign up! It’s free!
When in the Landbot dashboard, click on the “Build a Chatbot” button in the upper right corner:
When a channel-selection pop-up appears select “web” as the channel for your data collection form:
Next, the system will redirect you to the template library full of exciting templates we designed to make your life easier. But, if you are up for creating a customized conversational form, click the button “Start From Scratch” also in the upper right corner
And welcome to Landbot bot-building canvas!
The principle is simple. It’s all about the drag and drop:
Now that you have a better idea of how Landbot works, let’s get started!
As mentioned in the video above, the first task on the list is customizing the Welcome Block.
This is a default block you can’t delete. However, you may personalize it any way you please and so, it provides a perfect opportunity to introduce the “what” and “why” of your conversational form:
For the purposes of this data collection form tutorial, we went for simple:
Now, we already mentioned that one of the greatest advantages of conversational data collection forms is their ability to export data in real-time instead of waiting until the users’ complete forms in their entirety.
Note: While partial data might not be your goal, gathering data throughout will help you identify the form of friction in your form as well as remarket the form to those who abandoned it as you will have the means of contacting them.
Therefore, before asking any questions, we are going to set up our first export connection using Landbot’s native Google Sheets integration.
First, create a new Google Sheet doc in your Drive and name the columns based on the data you need to collect. (we will be adding more columns as we progress).
You may have noticed the first column says “User ID”.
Landbot generates this ID automatically for every user who initiates a conversation and it’s the ideal data point to use as a reference when adding data continually.
In the builder, drag an arrow from the green dot on the default option and, from the pop-up drop-down menu select “Google Sheets” block:
If you are doing this for the first time, you will need to click the “ADD ACCOUNT” button and follow the quick connection procedure. Once done, select:
- Your Drive account
- Google Sheet Doc within your account where you wish to export the data
- The sheet within the Doc where you want to save the data
Once this is done, you need to select the action to perform. Since this is the first time we are connecting, select “Insert new row” as the action to perform:
Next, all you need to do is select the column where you want to send this information – User ID:
And then associate it with a variable. Simply click on the “Variables” button and select the automatic ID variable from the list:
It’s done! Now each time a new user presses “Let’s get started!” and new entry will be registered in the spreadsheet.
Now it’s time to ask some real questions.
Landbot builder offers a plethora of question blocks. Let’s start with the basic “free text” blocks that allow you to collect free user inputs. Here is a little intro:
We selected the Name Block and adjusted to collect users’ first and then last name:
Since we already have a couple of data points to save, it’s time for another Google Sheet integration. However, this time, instead of inserting a new row, we will update an existing row using the ID as a reference.
Draw an arrow from the last block and select the integration again. This time choose “Update a Row”. You will notice there is a new section called “Reference Column”
Set the ID as the reference and then select which columns in that row you want to update with new information:
Again, you need to associate each column name with the variable that stores the pertinent data. Click SAVE and you are done.
Now, once the bot collects the user’s first and last name it goes to the spreadsheets, checks the ID column for the user ID and then updates the row corresponding to that ID with new data.
To maintain real-time data export, you can repeat this process after every question or a group of questions. There is no need to set up the integration each time. After the first update, you can just COPY the block and update the “UPDATE IN AND BY” section only.
Just hover over the block and click on the copy icon:
Some question blocks might appear as regular free text blocks but, in reality, include format validation. Automatic validation provides a basic format check when necessary:
For our data collection form, we selected the following questions with format validation:
As you may have noticed, we added an extra message block by using the data the user submitted (their name) to personalize the experience!
Here is where things get interesting. Special, rich-format questions make the conversational experience to the next level using fun interactive elements.
This means your form doesn’t need to rely on words alone. The video below offers a great overview of what you can achieve with just a few clicks:
We decided to use quite a few:
Notice that in the case of the Buttons block, one option says “Other”. If a user selects this option, the flow splits and lets them specify the use case in a free-text question block (before rejoining the main flow again).
P.S.: Make sure you adjust the variable name in each block. You can use the default ones or create your own when necessary.
One of the newer additions into the Landbot feature family is the Multi-Question block which enables you to include miniature forms inside the conversational format.
Why get rid of forms just to bring them back?
Well, there are instances when filling in and seeing several fields at once feels more comfortable and more natural. So, to cater for those instances, we created a multi-question block that does behave like a real form. The best part is you can customize from top to bottom controlling the number, size, and positioning of the fields. For example, you can:
- Select the question type (e.g., email, date, time, color, checkbox, etc.)
- Define the label for the field
- Set the field as required (so, the bot won’t let the user continue unless they fill it in)
- Define advanced elements such as help text, column width, max/min number of characters, etc.)
For instance, check out this pick-up booking form inside this conversational assistant:
In our data collection form, we opted for something simple, just to show off the feature… go and interact with the form to find out!
Forms in Excel and Google Sheets have one excellent advantage called formulas. Formulas allow you to make calculations, fix formatting, etc. Well, Landbot’s Formulas allow you to do the same but inside the chatbot flow.
For instance, you can ensure that a data entry is all lower or upper case, that includes a specific (number of) digits, you can even conduct calculations, and so forth. In any case, this feature is priceless especially when it comes to rigorous data collection.
Check out this video to learn more:
We didn’t apply formulas to our sample bot, since we don’t actually need to collect any specific data, but it sure is a feature to keep in mind!
Now that our flow is all set up, it’s time for the design.
Landbot builder features an intuitive design interface that lets you pick from a variety of templates and then offers the freedom to customize those templates with any colors and avatars and fonts of your choice
Just play around and find what works for you!
The last missing puzzle to a perfect conversational form for data collection is the ease of publication.
Go to the “Share” section of the navigation bar on the top of the builder.
There, Landbot offers four different ways to publish the data collection form on your website:
- Website embed
- Landing page
- Chat Widget
All you need to do here is copy the auto-generated code and paste it onto the desired part of your website.
However, if you are in a hurry, you can always click “Share with a link” in the left-side menu and simply share the form using an auto-generated link:
We decided to embed our form inside this post using the embed options. So… scroll a little bit further and try it out!
We did indeed build a data collection form for you and you are welcome to try it out!
This form exists so you can get a feel for the experience, so submit as many fake data as you want!