Digital form-filling is a ubiquitous way of doing business these days, so it’s important to have an option that won’t frustrate your (prospective) customers. Other key factors are ease of use, price and security. The best option I’ve found for small business digital form building is Cognito Forms. It features mobile-friendly forms with digital signatures, low-cost plans, easy drag and drop UI and permissions options to protect form data. Let’s talk a little more about the perks that really makes Cognito Forms stand out.

The price of collecting signatures

Collecting digital signatures is a big cutoff point in the marketplace for digital forms services. There are easy-to-use free and low cost form companies, but costs escalate quickly when you want to collect signatures. DocuSign, and a lot of the enterprise players, charge per-submission if you want to use persistent forms, which can escalate rapidly. There are also a number of services for getting signatures on specific types of documents (real-estate is a common market) but few who allow totally custom forms with signature submissions for a simple monthly price.

Cognito Forms fills this role nicely. For simple organizations, they have a plan for unlimited forms for $20/month, with signatures! This isn’t much more than premium custom form services without signature support, so Cognito is off to a great start.

Flexible, feature-filled forms

So the price is great for collecting signatures, but can the forms meet our needs? Almost certainly yes!

What makes Cognito Forms so great is that it’s clearly built right on top of JavaScript, but with a lot of UI help and monkey-see, monkey-do coding to get the results you want. Using Cognito Forms is like playing one of those programming games, except you’re getting actual work done, without having to possess the background to implement custom code into production.

One way I use this all the time is showing/hiding parts of the form based on the user’s response to a question. This is basic stuff, but Cognito Forms makes it dead simple to do without having to worry about syntax. Another way I like to use this is to calculate the costs of choices that the user has made. Combining these two concepts, you can also assign a new cost based on a combination of answers the user has made.

None of those are amazing, but the fact that a non-coder can do it quickly and easily is big. There are also calculation fields that let you take things even further, working some customer math into the form process to trigger an action. The customer-friendly, responsive forms make it a no-brainer.

So about that data

By default, Cognito Forms is simply storing your data in what is effectively a big ole spreadsheet. This works perfectly for my organization. If you’re expecting more volume, or have one of those great CRMs that’s easy to integrate with, Cognito has options. Since online signatures were one of the big selling points, we actually make a lot of use out of the built in option to download the forms as PDFs. Lots of options for this in 2018, but still nice to have it built in for less sophisticated users in the work flow.

Speaking of work flow, Cognito Forms provides a pretty powerful set of tools for triggering email alerts at different stages in the application process. This is helpful to allow all team members to know what work has been done, and what still needs attention.

In conclusion

Cognito Forms has been a lifesaver in getting digital forms going for my organization. Traditional options were more expensive, with no real benefit for our use, and harder for us and our customers to use. I haven’t even scratched the surface of Cognito Forms’ functionality, and may consider posting some specific tutorials. Let me know if you have any requests.