Forms may be a pain, but they provide great information
Image Credit: Grant Baldwin Photography

So, exactly why do elected officials have websites? Yes, there is a need to be able to inform voters, the press, and other interested parties in what the elected official is currently working on. However, it turns out that having a website that is just a one-way street is not enough -- elected officials need feedback! Asking visitors to your website to provide you with the information that you need in order to understand how they feel about various issues can be challenging because everyone is busy and nobody has time to write a book. This is why forms on websites are so important…


Why Are Forms So Valuable?

Just getting people to visit your website is a great start. More traffic means that there are more eyeballs looking at what you have to say. However, it’s not good enough. What every elected official would like their visitors to do is to provide them with some useful information about why they came, what they were looking for, and, of course, what they’d like the elected official to do for them.

In order to make this happen, the website is going to have to be designed to ask the visitor to provide some information. The simplest way to go about doing this would be to present every visitor with a blinking cursor and ask them to just start typing and tell you what they think. However, there are two problems with this approach. The first is that most people probably wouldn’t type in anything -- the task just seems too big. The second is that the people who did type something would probably talk about things that you don’t care about.

This is exactly where forms come in. Using a form on a website allows the elected official to drive the conversation in the direction that they want it to go. No matter if you are asking the website visitor to sign up for a newsletter or to provide their thoughts on a hot political issue, you can ask them very specific questions. This will cause them to provide you with the kind of detailed answers that you’ll need in order to take specific action.


What Does It Take To Create A Useful Form?

Unfortunately, just adding forms to your website will not magically provide you with the information that you are looking for -- you need to know how to go about doing this correctly. Perhaps even more importantly, you’re going to need to have the tools that will allow you to build the forms that you’ll need. GSL Solution’s HillTop service provides exactly the form building tools that are required in order to create effective forms.

In order to create a form that will collect the information that you will need, you first have to understand how a form is built. The very first thing that will be needed is a name for the form. Next, comes text that will introduce the form: “Please enter the following information in order to subscribe to my newsletter.” Additionally, text can be entered that will be displayed after the user completes entering the data on the form.

Now on to the form itself. In GSL Solutions’ HillTop service the next step is to define what form fields you’d like to have included on your form. This consists of items like first name, last name, email address, etc. Additionally, items called “fieldsets” can be included that simply result in additional text being displayed at different points in the form. Each form field has a type (text, radio button, checklist, etc.). It then has a title which is what gets displayed on the form (“First Name”). Finally, when the form is being created you can specify if this form field is required and how many characters can be entered.


What Does All Of This Mean For You?

In order for an elected official to be successful, he or she needs to find a way to get feedback from voters. Since every elected official has a website, that website provides a great way to get the desired feedback. In order to make this happen, forms have to be added to the website.

The use of a professional content management solution like GSL Solutions’ HillTop service provides access to the tools that you’ll need in order to create the forms that you’ll need. HillTop has the ability to store multiple forms, assign each a unique name, assign a form a set of form fields, and define a set of parameters for each form field.

In order for an elected official’s website to be useful, it has to support two-way communication between site visitors and the elected official. The best way to accomplish this is by using forms to guide the discussion and make sure that you collect only the information that you both want and need. Take the time to investigate how you could add forms to your website using GSL Solutions’ HillTop service and really connect with your voters.

- Dr. Jim Anderson HillTop – Political Web Sites That Get The Vote!™

Question For You: How many forms do you think that a single website should have?

GSL Solutions' HillTop service provides politicians with a way to get voters more involved with the political process. HillTop has been designed by politicians, for politicians in order to provide easy-to-use tools that make updating a political website with current and topical information easy to do. The website becomes a powerful communication tool between the politician and the voters. More information can be found at: www.HillTopCMS.com.


Tags: forms, title, field, text, radio box, checklist, max length, is active, political web site, campaign, voters, reelected, issues