When implementing client online solutions integrated to a multitude of back office systems we often have to explain the pros and cons of the approaches which can be taken, by us on the client’s behalf, to generate the take up in online interaction they require for data collection via online forms. This usually requires discussing the benefits of utilising the CRM vendors “Hosted forms” option or alternatively utilising any available “Web Services”.

So, other than “direct database access” (which is normally frowned upon), which of the two main options on offer may be applicable to your business solution? Should you choose "Hosted Forms" for your website's Join Forms, Event Bookings, Online Payments,etc, or the vendor-supplied "Web Services" when integrating your website to a Database or CRM?

Every company which offers a "membership", the opportunity to book a place at an event, web-based payments or indeed any "fill in this form..." option on their website will use one of these two tried and tested solutions. We thought it might be helpful to attempt to unmuddy the "form" waters and provide some of the pro's and con's associated with the two options.

HOSTED FORMS - What they have going for them!

Most CRM vendors will have a proprietary version of a Hosted Form to integrate your website with whichever "back-office" system you decide to have looking after your member, supporter or subscriber database.

The main benefit of choosing a "hosted" solution has to be its "Out Of The Box" nature. During the development of these platforms, most issues that will, or might become troublesome in the integration procedure will have been flagged up, addressed and solved before you get your hands on the product.

The time it should take to integrate a system such as this to your website should also be minimised as the installation process will be user-friendly and there will be a simple configuration procedure. As a result of the development processes to bring the product to your desk, the need for testing should also be vastly minimised, again saving time.

And lastly, but in many cases, most importantly - it's always going to be cheaper than a bespoke solution.

...And where does the idea of a HOSTED FORM fall down?

The most significant downside to taking on a product owned by, and developed by another company, in an "off the shelf" solution is that you are completely restricted to the limitations of that product.  Every company is different, as is any question that the company wants to know from their prospective member, client or supporter.

There will never be the option to customise your form to do what YOU want it to do, only what the product is designed to do.  Anything more than a basic "reskin" to look a little bit more like your own site with your own brand, and maybe some dynamic content fields in the form's header and footer and this option is not for you.

So, in a nutshell:

Hosted Forms are cheaper, uncomplicated and speedy to deploy, less testing required. However, their "user interface" is less flexible and the "user experience" less rewarding.
They are less integrated into your website and only able to handle generic processes.

WEB SERVICES - Why choose Webservices for your form requirements?

If a business is in any way progressive, unusual or specific in the way it contacts its audience, and potential audience, then the chances are that an "off the shelf" option won't meet its requirements. If a company chooses to go down the bespoke route with Web Services it will be rewarded with options to fulfil many more possibilities for their “forms” solution.

Producing forms using Web Services, depending on the capabilities of your web vendor, will give you total control over the look and the content, often referred to as UX (User Experience). Many companies know exactly what they want from an "add-on" to their website, and by definition, to their brand. A fully customised data collection device, or a seamlessly integrated event booking system is imperative for a company whose brand is important to them and whose message is specific.

...And where do WEB SERVICES lose their appeal?

Although Web Services will give you full control over your "user interface" (UI) and the "user experience" (UX) can be how you dream it (assuming there is a Web Service available to do it) and  they can be fully integrated into your web site with far fewer limitations (budget aside), they are more expensive to produce, take longer to build and far more scoping and testing is required.

So, the top line?

Well... as usual the decision boils down to available budget, time constraints and the level of "polish" that a company wants for its "UX".  

Over to you!

To find out more call netXtra on 01787 319393. Alternatively, you can get in touch via the form on our Contact page.