The 9 best online form builder apps in 2020

By Matthew Guay - Last updated September 4, 2020 -

You are reading: Chapter 2 of 9

There are only so many ways to build an online form. As a result, most form apps offer the same set of features: a variety of question and field options, a drag-and-drop editor, and basic themes and templates. Most save your results in a spreadsheet-like report and alert you via email when you receive new responses. With all these similarities, how do you choose the right app for your business? Does the right app even matter?

For most companies, it does matter, just not in as broad of strokes as you might anticipate. You'll find that the tiny details make a huge difference: little things that help customize a form to your business's needs and motivate customers to submit their responses.

To save you time, we tested more than 30 online form builders to pinpoint those important differences and help you choose the right one. Here are the nine best.

The 9 best online form builder apps

  • Google Forms for quickly creating powerful forms for free
  • Microsoft Forms for collecting and analyzing form results in Excel
  • Typeform for conversational data collection
  • Wufoo for quickly creating graphical reports without spreadsheets
  • JotForm for creating templated forms
  • Formstack for regulated businesses
  • Paperform for creating forms that look like landing pages
  • Formsite for protecting sensitive data
  • Formbakery for hosting forms on your own server

What makes a great online form builder?

The way form builders work is relatively straightforward.

You create labels and questions for the pieces of information you're looking to collect, and respondents can provide that information via freeform text boxes, dropdowns, radio buttons, and more. You can also set certain fields as required or optional and restrict the types of responses you receive to have more control over the data you collect.

And although building forms and collecting responses is a straightforward process, form apps come in all shapes and sizes. There are simple, standalone form apps, form builders that are built into spreadsheet apps, and advanced data processing tools that happen to be built around forms.

But what makes a great online form builder? We looked for tools that are:

  • Flexible enough to make anything from a simple contact form to a detailed, multi-page survey
  • Simple and fast to use so you can build a form in under five minutes
  • Designed to work on any website

We felt our final criterion, "designed to work on any website," was key. There are a lot of form builders designed for WordPress—we're fans of Gravity Forms, Ninja Forms, Formidable Forms, and WPForms—and Squarespace and Wix offer built-in form builders and platform-specific extensions. In this article, we wanted to focus on form builders you could use on any platform, so we eliminated those that were designed for a single platform only.

Using those criteria, we narrowed down our list of more than 30 apps to the following nine best form builders.

Best online form builder for quickly creating powerful forms for free

Google Forms (Web)

Google Forms screenshot

Google Forms is an excellent form builder app for many reasons. First, it's entirely free; you just need a Google account to use it. Second, it automatically saves your form results to a Google Sheets spreadsheet for advanced analysis. Finally, it's incredibly fast: adding and editing form fields in the Google Forms editor is noticeably faster than using almost any other form app (you can even reuse questions previously added to other forms to speed up the process even more).

Google Forms includes all the basic form fields you'd expect. While you can't accept payments, there are options for short- and long-answer text boxes, checkboxes, multiple choice selections, dropdown menus, file uploads, and more. You can set questions as required or optional, add images or videos, build a form that acts like a quiz and scores answers, or add some basic conditional logic that adjusts what questions people see based on the answers they provide.

Choose from a variety of pre-built templates before populating your form with questions, or customize it when you're finished with basic color and photo themes. You can also add extra fields and features with Google Forms add-ons—something few other form apps offer—and you can share the form with your team to collaborate on it.

Then, with its Google Sheets integration, you can use the power of a spreadsheet to validate your form entries and put your form data to work with customized reports and lists. And from there, you can use the Zapier integration to send that data to thousands of other apps. Here are a couple examples of what you can do:

Google Forms Price: Free with a Google account

Best online form builder for collecting and analyzing form results in Excel

Microsoft Forms (Web)

Microsoft Forms screenshot

If you prefer Excel over Google Sheets, Microsoft Forms may better suit your preferences. Microsoft Forms is Microsoft's answer to Google Forms, and it works largely in the same way, but with more data analysis functionality thanks to its integration with Excel.

Adding questions to Microsoft Forms is fast and simple: add a question, choose the answer format, and type in your questions and response options. And while Microsoft Forms doesn't offer some of the response types you'll find in Google Forms—it doesn't allow respondents to upload files, for example—it does have response types you won't find in Google Forms, like Net Promoter Score.

When you're finished building your form, you can send people a direct link to respond, or you can grab the embed code to add the form to your website or embed it in Sway. Then, get a quick overview of your responses within the Microsoft Forms interface, or open your responses in an Excel spreadsheet to do more detailed digging or visualize your collected data.

Microsoft Forms Price: Free with a Microsoft account

Best online form builder for conversational data collection

Typeform (Web)

Typeform screenshot

Typeform tosses away the old conventions of a long page of questions and response fields. Typeform's forms are uniquely designed, showing one question at a time and blurring out the others, making the overall form submission process feel very conversational and intimate. Respondents can tap a designated key on their keyboards to select multiple-choice options, type to sort through dropdown menu options, and press Enter to jump to the next field. This rental form application template is a good example: You can fill out the entire form using only a keyboard.

It might not work for every form, but you'll find new ways to use forms with Typeform since forms can include cover pages, paragraphs of text, and multimedia along with traditional form fields. It's also one of the best options if you want your form to look great on mobile: Typeform's oversized buttons are far easier to use on a touchscreen than standard radio buttons.

Once users have submitted their forms, you can automatically send their answers to any other app you use—be it a CRM, email marketing tool, or anything else—using Typeform's Zapier integrations.

Typeform Price: Free for 3 forms, 10 questions per form, and 100 responses per month; from $35/month for the Essentials plan that includes unlimited surveys and fields and 1,000 responses along with logic jumps and payment fields.

Best online form builder for quickly creating graphical reports without a spreadsheet

Wufoo (Web)

Wufoo screenshot

Wufoo was one of the first form tools to make online forms look good. And it's part of SurveyMonkey, one of the earliest web apps with a history dating back to 1999. It's probably no surprise, then, that Wufoo's form builder looks a little dated. But appearances, in Wufoo's case, are deceiving.

What Wufoo lacks in modern design aesthetics, it makes up for with extreme customizability. While forms created in Google Forms and Microsoft Forms all tend to look very much alike, Wufoo lets you build a form that's completely unique.

Adjust how text and form fields are aligned on the page, display response options in multiple columns, and build custom themes with backgrounds, fonts, and colors you choose. And with a premium plan, you can create branching and logic to redirect respondents to different questions based on previous answers, add payment fields to integrate your form with your preferred payment gateway, or include a DocuSign field to collect signatures.

Plus, Wufoo has a powerful report generator that's just as simple to use. Add a name, select the form data, choose the table or graph style you want to use to show that data, tweak a few settings, and seconds later you'll have a detailed, graphical report without ever having to open a spreadsheet. That alone is a reason to try it out—it's one of the easiest ways to put your form data to work.

Once you have results, you can send that data anywhere you need with Wufoo's Zapier integrations, whether it's your to-do list, database, or anything in between.

Wufoo Price: Free for one user, up to five forms, and unlimited reports; from $19/month for the Starter plan that includes up to 10 forms, 1GB uploads, and maximum fields.

Best online form builder for creating templated forms

JotForm (Web, iOS, Android)

JotForm screenshot

JotForm lets you build a free form that does everything you need it to do and looks exactly how you want it to look. JotForm's forms are much more customizable than forms created on Google Forms and Microsoft Forms, and unlike Wufoo, JotForm even lets you do things like accept payments and collect signatures without upgrading to a premium plan.

JotForm also stands out with its immense template library — you can choose from more than 10,000 form templates that cover everything from contact forms and employment applications to new patient registration forms and market research surveys. Use those templates, or start with a blank slate, to build single-page or multiple-page forms, including multiple-page forms with each question appearing on its own, separate page.

Then, add a logo, build or edit your form using nearly two dozen different types of form fields, set up payment integrations, and take advantage of a variety of widgets that let you do things like collect signatures, validate emails, add a progress bar, and much more.

If you need to work in a spreadsheet or create visuals, JotForm makes it easy to do that, too. Download your responses as an Excel spreadsheet, HTML table, or visual report. And if you don't want to have to look through emails for every response, you can also set up an RSS feed to review your responses in your favorite RSS reader app.

When someone responds to your form, you'll receive an email with the responses—or you can use JotForm's Zapier integrations to send the responses to your email marketing tool, spreadsheet app, or anything else.

JotForm Price: Free for up to five forms with JotForm branding; from $24/month for the Bronze plan that includes up to 25 forms without JotForm branding.

Best online form builder for regulated businesses

Formstack (Web, iOS, Android)

Formstack screenshot

If your company is in a highly regulated industry, Formstack may be the best option for you.

Formstack offers specific HIPAA- and GDPR-compliant forms that keep respondents' private data secure. Additionally, Formstack will warn you if your form doesn't meet Section 508 Compliance standards—e.g., they won't work with assistive technologies like screen readers—ensuring everyone can fill your forms out.

Once data starts flowing in, you can make sure it goes to the right people by using Formstack's workflows features. You can build approval workflows to send form data to certain people and let them review it online or via email before sending it to the next person on your team.

Wondering if your form would work better with different descriptions or with the form fields in a different order? Formstack includes an A/B testing tool to let you compare two versions of your forms directly. It also provides detailed analytics that show you how people found your forms—and who was most likely to fill them out.

You can also extend Formstack's features with Formstack's Zapier integrations, allowing you to send Formstack data to other apps. Here are a couple examples, but you can use whatever apps you rely on most.

Formstack Price: From $19/month for the Bronze plan that includes one user and up to five forms. The workflows and A/B testing features are each an additional cost.

Best online form builder for creating forms that look like landing pages

Paperform (Web)

Paperform screenshot

Forms are for gathering data, but sometimes you have to tell a story before people start telling you theirs. Paperform is designed for just that with forms that look more like a landing page or blog post than your standard list of form fields. Add photos, headings, video, and long-form text to use your form to tell the story behind your offerings. It's a nice substitute for a landing page builder, letting you collect visitor data on custom landing pages for things like PPC ads and targeted marketing campaigns.

A quick scroll through some of Paperform's templates shows you the many things you can do with a non-traditional form: create product catalogs complete with ordering and payment fields, accept restaurant reservations alongside location maps and contact info, embed application fields into a page that includes your job listing, and more.

Building a form in Paperform is as simple as creating a document in your favorite word processor. Start typing to build your form, tap Enter to move to a new line, and use sub-menus to do things like add images, align content, transform text into headers, and add questions and response fields.

When you're finished, choose what happens after someone submits the form: have Paperform send an email, display a success page, or redirect respondents to a page on your website. Or you can use Paperform's Zapier integrations to automate the process even further and get your info to more apps, like your team chat app or email marketing tool.

Paperform Price: From $12.50/month for the Essentials plan that includes one user, unlimited forms with Paperform branding, and 1,000 submissions per month.

Best online form builder for protecting sensitive data

Formsite (Web)

Formsite screenshot

Need to make sure your form data is secure? Formsite lets you encrypt the text in specific form fields. That means it scrambles it so that responses appear unintelligible to people without permission to view them. It comes with built-in payment processing integrations like PayPal, Stripe, and, or you can use encrypted fields to directly accept credit card or ACH data through your form.

You can also reuse form blocks and data in Formsite. Build a standard billing block, and then embed that block into other forms so you don't have to recreate it over and over again. Or you can link multiple forms together, pull responses users submitted in one form over to another so customers don't have to fill out their info multiple times, or even combine the results of multiple forms to view data together. And once responses have been submitted, you can be sure the data gets where it needs to go with Formsite's Zapier integrations. Here are some example workflows to get you started.

Formsite Price: From $16.67/month for the Deluxe plan that includes up to five forms and 500 results/form.

Best online form builder for hosting forms on your own server

Formbakery (Web)

Formbakery screenshot

While all the apps featured in this roundup allow you to embed a form on your website, you still have to rely on their servers to host the form and transmit data. That's not the case with Formbakery, which gives you the source code for you to host your forms on your own server. This means that once you get the code, you don't have to rely on Formbakery at all—if they were to disappear, your forms would still stay intact.

Formbakery has a minimal, drag-and-drop interface, allowing you to choose from five different question types. Although it's not the most robust, it is incredibly fast to create a form. Once you're done, you can access the source code in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP to add to your website (Formbakery gives you all the CSS for your form, allowing you to completely customize the look and feel).

When someone submits a form on your website, the form data is neatly formatted and emailed to you: the data goes directly from your server to your inbox.

While a certain level of technical knowledge is required to use Formbakery, it may be worth it. You only have to pay a one-time license fee, instead of a recurring fee, to host and distribute an unlimited number of forms.

Formbakery Price: $19 for one commercial use license.

How to pick the best form app for your business

With all the form builder apps listed here, and many more that work with Zapier, it's difficult to pick the perfect form app. Each of these form apps has its own attractive features, and they all let you make a wide variety of forms with ease. If one of their unique features stuck out to you, give that one a try and see if it works for you.

But first—want to gather data on the go with mobile apps? In the next chapter, you'll find the best mobile data collection apps—the form apps designed for mobile that didn't fit this roundup but are still great ways to gather data.

Go to Chapter 3!

Written by Matthew Guay.


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