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Learn About Web Forms

Web Forms Tutorial

Common Web Forms

Most web sites have at least one form. Here are some of the common forms you might find on web sites:

  • contact form - rather than provide an email address, web site owners often provide a form for you to fill in to contact them.
  • feedback form - most web site owners value the feedback of visitors such as yourself. A feedback form allows you to provide any comments you might wish to make about their web site, or their products and services.
  • "signup" form - usually a quick way for you to sign up to a newsletter or some other regular service.

This online tutorial will help you learn about web forms. It will answer questions you might have such as:

  • What is a form?
  • How do forms work on the World Wide Web?
  • How can I create a form for my web site?

What is a form?

Sometime in your life you'll have been asked to fill in a paper form. Maybe at your doctor's surgery, maybe for tax purposes; there are lots of forms we all have to fill in at some time.

On the web, forms are just like paper forms in the real world, except that they are displayed on your computer screen, and you have to use your keyboard (and sometimes your mouse) to fill them in.

The good thing about web forms is that they make processing more efficient, and they can check the details you enter to make sure you haven't missed anything. Also, there's no problem with reading handwriting!

You're in control

Web forms usually have a "submit" button or similar.

In most cases, nothing gets sent to the web site until you click that submit button.

The web is changing...

Web forms are getting more interactive. This means some forms communicate with the web site as you fill in the form.

This let's them provide instant feedback and update themselves as you enter information.

Even so, in most cases, nothing you enter is stored permanently on the web site until you click the submit button.

A form is just a part of a normal HTML page. HTML defines tags for creating and formatting forms.

So, the first thing to know is that a web form is displayed in your browser and you fill it in in your browser.

What's so special about a form?

Normal web pages are downloaded from the web site to your browser and displayed there.

A web form, however, gets sent back to the web site after you fill it in.

That's the key difference: a normal web page goes one way - from the web site to you. But, a form goes both ways - first it gets downloaded to you and then you upload the information you've filled in back to the web site. You do this by clicking the form's "submit" button.

Learn more about clients and servers.

What happens when you submit a form?

Your browser knows how to send (technically, upload) the information you've filled into a form. It does this by:

  1. packaging the information in a special way;
  2. connecting to the server computer;
  3. transmitting the package of information to the server;
  4. checking the response from the server and actioning any further instructions provided by the server (such as displaying a message saying "thank you").

You might be wondering what happens to that information!

The web site needs special software to accept this information and do something with it. Typically, the server software may:

  • format the information you submitted and email it to the web site owner (or other people they've authorized to accept the information)
  • store the information in a file on the server
  • store the information in a databaseOpens in a new window on the server
  • send the information to another server

It's not possible for you to know what happens to the information you submit, so you should only submit information to web sites you trust. The more sensitive or confidential the information is, the more you need to trust the web site.

The server software that accepts your form submission is called a form processor. Tectite FormMail is a form processor. If you're a web site owner, you need a form processor, and Tectite FormMail is one you can download and use for free!