How to Create Multi-Language Forms

We’ve now released the first international version of FormSmarts. Form users now see instructions, error messages, and confirmation messages in their preferred language. FormSmarts is already available in 27 languages, and more translations are under way.

The languages supported are: Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish and Ukrainian . If your language is not listed and you are willing and able to translate FormSmarts into your language, sign up here.

Other changes worth mentioning:

  • Create forms in any language. Because of the character encoding that was used, web forms could before only be designed using a West-European language. FormSmarts now supports all languages.
  • Now using ISO date format. The date format accepted was changed to the ISO format YYYY-MM-DD. Note that because most users enter dates with a date-picker, the impact of this change is very small in practice. The format used on the confirmation page and in email notifications has not been changed.
  • New form URL format. The default form URL format was changed to accommodate forms which title is not in English. The previous URL format that was based on form title is still supported for backward compatibility.

How the Language of a Form is Selected

Each time a form is loaded, FormSmarts customizes it based on the language preferences set in the user’s browser. Common text, error, help and confirmation messages will be displayed in the form user’s preferred language, not necessarily in the language you used to create the form. For example, if you built a form in English but some of your visitors have set Spanish as their preferred language, those users will see the form questions and the text you entered in English, and help and confirmation messages in Spanish.

Setting a Form to Use a Specific Language

Dynamic language selection explained in the last section provides the best user experience in most cases. This approach however becomes awkward when the main language of the form and the preferred language of the form user employ a different reading direction. If you have built a form in a right-to-left (RTL) language (Arabic or Hebrew) and expect all form users to understand that language and a number of them to use a browser set to a left-to-right (LTR) language auch as English, then you should set the language of the form as explained next.

Dynamic language selection most-usually provides the best user experience and we recommend against setting forms to a specific language except in the case discussed above.

To set the language of a form to a specific language, set the lang parameter of the form URL to the ISO code of that language. So if the URL of your form is http://formsmarts.com/form/lqh and you would like to set it to always display in Hebrew, you would need to use the URL http://formsmarts.com/form/lqh?lang=he or change the URL in the form snippet published on your site to http://formsmarts.com/form/lqh?mode=embed&lay=1&lang=he.

PayPal Integration

If you’re using FormSmarts' PayPal integration on a payment form aimed at users in locales with a non-Western European language, you need to set up your PayPal account to use the UTF-8 encoding.

Give Feedback

We welcome your feedback about this new version of FormSmarts. Please report any problems you may find.

FormSmarts Soon in More Languages

We’ve started to translate FormSmarts’ form handler into other languages. When the international version is released, form users will see instructions, error messages, and confirmation messages in their preferred language.

International form owners will welcome this move, but not only them.

  • FormSmarts users with international websites will be able to create forms in English, while making them available to an international audience without any extra efforts;
  • a U.S. user with a preferred language set to Spanish in his browser will see messages in that language.

Note that the internationalization in progress only applies to the form processor at this time. At the rate we introduce new features to the form builder, we wouldn’t be able to keep translations in sync.

We’ve already emailed international users to ask anyone able and willing to translate FormSmarts into their own language to sign up. If you would like to contribute but didn’t get the email, please register here.

Update: We would like to thank all the users who have already volunteered to translate FormSmarts into their language. Our most wanted languages are currently:

  • Chinese (Simplified) / 中文 (简体)
  • Japanese / 日本語
  • Russian / русский
  • Italian / italiano
  • Polish / polski
  • Korean / 한국어

Calling Embedded Form Users!

Form Widget Size Calculation Upgraded

To accommodate users who need to create forms with a large number of fields, we’ve recently introduced a much more sophisticated way to calculate form widget size. If forms on your site currently display a scrollbar, we strongly advise you to upgrade the form embedding code.

Refresh the Code on Your Website When You Add a Field

Once you have inserted the HTML code for the form widget on your site, we cannot resize it at our end. That means that whenever you add more input fields, you must refresh the code on your website. If you don’t do it, a scrollbar may show up, and some users may not be able to see the bottom of the form.

Space at the Bottom of Web Forms Is Normal

The spare space at the bottom of web forms is there for a reason: leaving enough space for error messages that may occur during form submission. Here again, if you remove that space, a scrollbar may show up, and some users may not see the bottom of the form.

Optimizing form widget size is not a simple issue because it depends on the rendering characteristics of the diverse web browsers, as well as on the different aspects of each form. If you believe the size of a form you’ve created is not optimal, let us know.

Introducing Form Layouts

We’re pleased to now support two form layouts.

Question (a.k.a. field name) and input field aligned horizontally (default):
Form layout: question and input field aligned
Question and input field aligned vertically:
Form layout: question above input field

Which Layout Should You Use?

Most people find web forms designed with the first layout clearer and easier to read. That’s why we use it by default whenever you create a form.

The best layout to use depends on the length of the questions asked on the form.

  • When a form is made of short questions like name or email address, prefer the first layout. This is what you should use, for example, for contact forms.
  • When the form contains longer questions like Why do you want to work for us?, you should rather use the second layout. It turns out that you should use the second layout for most complex forms like web surveys and job application forms.

How to Change the Layout of a Form

You can change the layout of a form in the form details page. Note that if you’re using a form widget embedded into your site, you must update the HTML code on your site whenever you switch layout.

This is simply because the layout affects the size of the form. Forms accessed by their FormSmarts.com URL don’t have this restriction.

Any Feedback About Form Layouts?

We welcome your feedback about this feature.

Stored Form Results

Whenever someone uses one of your forms, we email you the form submission straight away. That is, at this time, the only way we support for you to access form results.

That’s great if you need to collect time-sensitive information that needs to be processed individually. For example, for contact forms or order forms.

For most individuals and small businesses, their email account is where data is safest. Free email services like Gmail or Yahoo give you reliable data storage, that’s an advantage that is often overlooked.

But sometimes what you want is really to collect form data, store it somewhere, and use it later. That’s what you need for medium and large scale surveys, registration forms, and the likes.

Stored form results is the next big thing coming up on FormSmarts.

What Will Change with Stored Form Results?

When this feature becomes available, you’ll have the option to store form submissions on FormSmarts. You’ll then be able to download them, export them to Microsoft Excel, get them emailed to you weekly, or get them via a private RSS feed.

Stored Form Results will only be available to FormSmarts Pro customers.

Anything to Say?

We’re open to suggestions about other ways to let users retrieve stored form data.

Date Type & Datepicker

Datepicker

Anyone using a standard text field for dates should upgrade to the new date type.

Fields with the date type show as a text box, with a datepicker poping up when the field is selected. A datepicker allows users to input dates in an intuitive and interactive way, therefore reducing the risk of errors.

Date Format

Another reason for using a datepicker is to alleviate the date format problem. Because of date formatting differences, 12/07/2008 means December 7th in the U.S., but July 12th in Europe. Although we initially thought of adopting the ISO/W3C date format “yyyy-mm-dd”, we eventually preferred the U.S. format “mm/dd/yyyy”. That is, until we release an internationalized version of FormSmarts.

Because users don’t interact directly with the text field (unless they want to), but rather with the datepicker, they don’t have to be aware of date formatting issues.
To avoid any misunderstandings, dates are displayed as Sunday July 20, 2008.

Any questions or comments? Leave a reply. We are in particular interested in feedback from non U.S. users.

Geolocalized Country Selection Field

We’re going to add over the week-end two new input field types: country, and date. You should upgrade any web forms currently using a standard text field for country or date to the new types.

When to Use the Country Type

Choose the country type whenever you want to show on a form a dropdown list with the 280 odd ISO country names.

Visitor Country Selected by Default

A country list field is typically used to ask the visitor about his/her country of residence. You’ve certainly already experienced the frustration of having to search for your country in a long list each time you fill out a form. At FormSmarts, we want to save time to everyone, so the visitor’s country is automatically selected by default.
That way, users only have to change the selection if the question asks them about a country different from their country of residence. For example, “Where did you travel last time you went abroad?”

Reducing the time needed to fill a form helps reduce form abandonment.

Any questions or comments? Leave a reply.

P.S. We’ll present the date type in another post.

What’s the Return URL of a Form?

When creating a new form with FormSmarts Form Builder, you’re asked to provide a return URL for that form. The return URL is where visitors will be automatically redirected to or invited to go to (by clicking a link) after a successful form submission.

We also use return URLs to compute the list of websites in Settings > Websites.

If you don’t have a web page, simply use “http://formsmarts.com” as the return URL.

Return URL & Form Ownership

To prevent abuse, the link to the return URL is only displayed on the confirmation page if the form owner is verified or is a FormSmarts Pro or FormSmarts Business user. Visit the Settings tab of your account to verify your sites.

Redirecting Visitors to a Page of Your Site

You can set up a form to skip the Confirmation page and automatically redirect the visitor to the form’s Return URL. Note that the visitor will then not get the FormSmarts Reference Number of the transaction. Redirection can be activated in the Form Details screen of the form builder, under On Submission. FormSmarts Pro and Business customers only.

For security reasons, browsers won’t redirect users from a secure HTTPS page to non-secure content. So when a form is embedded onto an HTTPS site, the return URL should also use HTTPS.

PayPal Landing Page for Forms Including a Payment

If you use our PayPal form feature to add a payment to your form, the Return URL will be used as the PayPal landing page. Users will be redirected to that page by PayPal after the payment has been completed.

Form Color Settings

Like many FormSmarts users, you may sometimes want to customize the style of your web forms. This may be because you want the forms to match the rest of your website, or because you want a form to stand out on a web page.

The form builder allows you to easily change the text and background color of your forms. Visit the Form Details screen in the Forms tab to set color preferences for a particular form.

Web Form Color Selection

Things to note:

  • color settings only affect embedded forms, not forms access by their FormSmarts URL
  • because your color settings are stored in our servers, you can change settings and see the result immediately. You don’t need to update the form embed code on your website.

How to Change Form Colors

  1. By default, form text is black, and form background is transparent. This should fit the needs of most users, and if you’re happy with this, you don’t need to do anything.
  2. If you do want to change a color, the easiest way is to choose one of the popular colors we’ve preselected. Just click on the color you want.
  3. If you prefer to use your own colors, you may type any valid 6-digit HTML color code directly. For example, 808080 is a shade of gray.

Usability Note

It’s important to preserve the accessibility of your forms to visually impaired visitors, and their usability under poor reading conditions (e.g. bright sunshine). Always keep a high color contrast.

Advanced Form Customization

You may further customize many visual aspects of a form by providing your own CSS stylesheet. For usability reasons, we don’t recommend dramatically changing the form layout.

Form Owner Verification with Google Page Creator

To verify you own a website, we ask you to create a file with a specific name on your web host. If you use Google Page Creator, proceed as follows to verify your site:

  1. create a new page
  2. enter the verification file name (e.g. syronex8800…2523.html) as the page title
  3. publish the new page

Form ownership verification is optional but recommended to build trust with your visitors. It is required you intend to advertise a web form URL by email.

Recent Issues with Google Page Creator

Although hundreds of Google Page Creator users have successfully verified their site, we’ve had a few issues in the last few days. Google was redirecting some of the requests to googlepages.com to the same page on google.com, thus preventing us to check the verification file exists. We obviously have a limited scope for action, but we identified a likely cause and took technical measures that seem to have solved the problem. Leave a comment if you experience any more problems.

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About the Form Builder Blog

The Online Form Builder Blog is published by FormSmarts, a web form service providing all you need to create a form and publish it online in minutes. FormSmarts makes it easy to build a form and embed it on your site. You can then get form submissions by email or store them on FormSmarts and download an Excel report. Learn more about the many other benefits of FormSmarts.