Working harder not smarter with online forms

by | Jan 23, 2018 | Articles

Online form builders are great. They are quick to set up, generally easy to use and give you the flexibility to ask whatever questions you want. Most of them are also incredibly cheap, or free. That’s about where it ends when it comes to the positives if you plan on running a recognition program like an award, grant or scholarship with an online form builder.

While it may seem cost-effective, an online form builder will cost you time and money in the long run. It will present a cheap experience for your entrants and judges. And from a technology standpoint, will fall significantly short of what you can achieve using a dedicated, fit-for-purpose software solution designed with recognition programs in mind.

Here’s why:

Entrants need to complete their submission in one sitting

Picture it: Your entrant just got home after a long day, makes something to eat, gets cleaned up and prepares for his or her evening routine, when they remember that award/grant/scholarship they wanted to make a submission to. They open the program link on their computer and BANG. They need to submit answers in 5 sections, 10 questions per page and upload 3 documents.

That’s not going to play out well for your submission rate if entrants need to do that all at once. People need time to prepare, craft and refine their award-winning submission. Unless they can make a start straight away and work on their submission over several sessions, entrants will procrastinate, and perhaps forget about entering entirely. .

No ability for entrants to edit a submission

Ever written a test and wish you could go back and edit your answers? You can’t, the rules don’t allow for it and, well, it’s the same with an online form builder. Whether it was human error, a technical problem or just the cat walking over the keyboard and submitting on your behalf— mistakes happen.

If your entrants are near the end of the form— it will be difficult for them to find the resilience to redo a submission from scratch. It might be ok if they just got started but note— you are the one that will have to sort through all of those duplicate submissions and find the one worth using.

Which leads to the next point…

Weak visibility of entrants

With an online form, all you know is how many people actually completed a submission. That’s bad for your program, very bad. Without insight into what’s happening with entries, you’ll have little idea how to improve on your program.

With recognition program software like Award Force, you get insight into how many people registered (and who), how many people started and how many people submitted an entry / application to your program.

Without this insight, you will never know whether your response rate is poor because of inappropriate levels of marketing, question design or entrant behaviour.

Poor to non-existent criteria / categories / languages

If you have multiple categories, criteria or languages to accommodate for, using an online form to accept submissions is going to be a nightmare. You have two choices:

  1. Use multiple online forms for each category, criteria and language mix. Downside is you have to keep track of all the form urls (or things get messy quickly), market each url separately and have countless different sources of information to sanitise before its ready for judging/adjudication. Or…
  2. Use one online form and cater for each category/criteria. Downside here is that every question you ask after the obvious “Which category are you applying for?” question has to be generic enough to apply to all categories.

Oh, we almost forgot about language here. You can only have one, sorry.

Neither of those two options are great. Time and money wasted, many grey hairs added.

File uploading is problematic

Some, but not all online forms allow for uploading of files and of those, only one or two do a decent job at it. Often, your entrants will be restricted by the number of files that can be uploaded, file type and file size. And you as the organisation have to be concerned with the amount of space allocated to your account. If only half of your entrants could submit their attachments that’s not going to be fair and it could put your brand at risk.

Keep in mind that any online form that allows you to make file uploads also advises that you only allow file uploads from people you trust. This is because a few organisations have been sent malicious software/trojans/viruses that could take over your account, remove your entries or even infect the machines that access it. Online forms with attachment capabilities are exceptionally dangerous.

Needless to say, file uploading via an online form is NOT advisable for recognition programs. Even more so for those of you who use a plugin for your WordPress website. Your whole world can come crashing down— you have to be careful!

What to do about judging & adjudication…

So far we have only covered handling entries with online forms because that’s all they can readily do. Sure they offer some graphs for quantified questions but that’s not judging.

No, we are talking about real, awe-inspiring judging features that online forms just don’t have:

  • Judging/adjudication management.

  • Manage panels of judges and judging assignments.

  • Control public, private or invite-only judging access.

  • Communicate with judges. Like you can do with our broadcast feature.

  • Keep abreast of judging progress.

  • Real-time, automatic result calculation and display.

  • Judging modes. Ok we are biased here because no other software on the market offers as many judging modes as we do.

Read more about the judging features you can’t get with an online form here

No brand or sponsorship handling

This is a big one. Online forms are limited when it comes to branding. Some forms will allow you to choose between a few primary/secondary colours and if you are lucky, allow you to upload a background picture. With Award Force, you have a fully configurable interface that makes your brand shine and gives your sponsors plenty of visibility.
Read about our branding here

Read about sponsor visibility here


At first, using an online form to manage your recognition program sounds like a great idea, it’s cheap, it’s easy and it’s readily available but as you use it more, you will find that your needs will not be met. Using an online form for your recognition program means you will work harder, not smarter.

Award Force solves all of these challenges, and is used by programs and organisations around the world. Big or small, you can too.

We have a number of pricing packages available and an unparalleled commitment to helping you grow your program.

To see Award Force in action, check out our demo videos or book a call to get a one-on-one walkthrough with one of our friendly staff.

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