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Web Publishing

Forms: An Overview

Online forms offer an easy way to gather information because they allow you to capture information electronically or in print. This document provides basic terminology associated with forms, provides considerations when creating forms, and gives information about form fields.

Before you begin creating your online form, take time to plan and design it. Remember, how you collect the information will be influenced by how you want to process it.  If the information will be processed on the computer, collecting it electronically is preferred.

return to topTerminology

It is helpful to understand some of the terminology associated with forms before you begin working on them.

Form
Forms are web pages that contain a collection of form fields, allowing a user to enter and submit information. Values are collected from these fields and processed by a form handler script.

Form Field
A form field is an area on a web page where a user can enter or select information, allowing a form developer to collect information from a user. Text boxes, check boxes, radio buttons, drop-down menus, and push buttons are all examples of form fields. Field names are case sensitive.

Name-Value Pairs
Name-value pairs are used to pass form inputs to the script or form handler and then to the form developer, by matching the user's form field inputs to the form field that requested it. In other words, a form field requesting information from a user has a name, and the user's input is the value for that form field.   For example, a text box prompting users to enter their names may have a form field name called "name" and the user-supplied value entered and submitted to the form developer may be "Susan." During processing, those pairs are matched up so the form developer can make sense of the submitted information.

Form Handler Script
A form handler script is a program run on a web server that gathers and processes the form field inputs. With the HTML code generated in Dreamweaver, a form handler script can be assigned to a form. This script may send the form field inputs to a specified email address, text file, or create a new web page. The type of processing done depends on the form handler script used.

return to topConsiderations

Designing a form takes practice and the following guidelines can help you as you plan.

NOTES:
For information on how to create a form, continue with Creating Forms.
An alternative to creating your form using a web editor is to use the WebSurvey System, which is available to UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff. For more information, refer to the overview of this system.

return to topAbout Form Fields

Form fields can be used in many different ways. This table outlines some of the basic uses of a form field.

Buttons
Submit push button
Push buttons allow users to submit the form information, or clear/reset the form fields. A form must have a SUBMIT push button or users cannot submit their form field inputs. Other types of push buttons are used when the form developer needs to use custom scripts (e.g., JavaScript) to process the form.
Text Boxes
Text Box Field
Text boxes allow users to type information in the form field. A one-line text box can be used for brief text input from users, such as their names or passwords. A scrolling text box can be used for input that requires multiple lines of text, such as a user's comments.
Check BoxesCheck Box
Check boxes allow users to make multiple selections from the choices provided. For example, if asked which academic subjects the user prefers, the user could select English, Math, and History.
Radio Buttons
Radio Button
Radio buttons allow users to make one selection from the choices provided. For example, if asked the user's major, the user could select only English.
Lists/Menus
Drop-down menu
Drop-down menus usually allow users to select only one item from a list of options. However, the developer can set the drop-down list so users can make more than one selection from the list.
Hidden Form Fields Hidden form fields allow form developers to pass information from a form to a script/form handler or from one form to another, before being passed to a script/form handler. Hidden form fields are not visible to users. Form developers who intend to use the email message script available on the UWEC Web server (e.g., to have a user's form inputs sent to an email address), will have to use hidden form fields.
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