A couple of weeks ago we looked back on 2015 nostalgically and reflected on all we have accomplished with the support and encouragement of our customers. This post looks to the future and specifically seeks your input on how we can make 2016 rock and roll!
As you may already know, we do things a little differently here at Cognito Forms. We love hearing from our customers, we publically manage our feature roadmap, and we actively solicit feedback to help us shape our collective futures. So without further ado, here is a rundown of some ideas we have cooking for 2016. When you have a moment, please check out our Trello Idea Board to up-vote and comment on your favorites!
In Progress Right Now
First things first… We already have a number of features in progress, so I’ll spend a few moments highlighting what features we know will be released over the next month or so:
This great feature will allow you to download Word-based templates for your forms exactly as they appear today when you generate PDF’s. You can then fully customize these templates to present your form entry data any way you like, with full support for rich calculations, repeating sections, and validation to make sure everything works correctly.
We released this feature as a private beta just before Christmas. We have received great feedback and are nearing the official release. If you would like to participate in the beta, just send us a support request to let us know!
We are excited to announce our upcoming referral program! The referral program will provide each of you with an easy way to share Cognito Forms with friends and co-workers. You will be able to easily track the organizations that you have referred—and even better—track the referral credits (aka real money) that we automatically add to your account each month as our “thank you”. And with these changes, we are finally making it possible for organizations on our paid plans to completely opt out of any branding and marketing messages, even on our public links.
Repeating sections are a powerful form building tool in Cognito Forms. The table field provides a different, more consolidated way of arranging and collecting lists of information from your customers.
We love beautiful forms, but our focus over the past couple of years has been function over form. We are overhauling our form styling options to make it easier for you to create awesome looking forms without having to embed them in your website and adding your own CSS pixie dust. You will now be able to individually style the form title, headings, labels, text, links and buttons. You will also be able to use a much wider range of fonts, including a number of Google web fonts; change form, header and page backgrounds; and have better control over your form logo positioning. Finally, we are cooking up a number of new form styles to spice things up and provide different “looks” for your form controls, while also including a “bare bones” option for our CSS ninjas out there.
While these “in progress” items are exciting, they are well under way and will soon be in your hands. The rest of this post focuses on areas we are currently investigating for product enhancements through the rest of 2016.
Entry Management Enhancements
We personally think Cognito Forms provides one of the most powerful form building experiences available. However, building powerful forms to collect information is useless unless you have the tools to manage this information and expose it to your organization and your customers. The following feature ideas all have a common thread—to help you use Cognito Forms to run your organization, not just collect data.
This one is pretty straight forward. While it is possible today when managing entries to pick what columns to show and apply filters, you cannot save these settings. This feature will allow you to save named entry views. This helps organizations build repeatable processes for managing form submissions.
When there is more than one cook in the kitchen, communication and delegation is essential. Entry workflow will add the ability to assign one or more users to each entry and make it easy to see and filter entries by their user assignments. Throw in automatic rule-based assignment and assignment-based email notifications and you can implement a fully automated workflow to managing information in your organization!
While grid-based views of entries are great for managing submission data, many of our customers have asked for graphical visualizations of their results, especially for surveys and polls. This feature would add an additional type of saved entry view that transforms columns into charts and other types of summary visualizations.
Why keep all of this great information private? Sometimes the whole point of collecting the information in the first place is making it available for the whole world to see. Public entry views will allow these saved entry views to be published (read only) via public sharing links and embed codes, just like the forms themselves!
Taking things to the next level, our goal is to connect you with your customers in every way possible. The customer portal delivers this by automatically creating public user accounts for your customers when they fill out registration forms you share with them. These public users would then be able to log in to submit new entries and easily view or update their existing entries using configurable view/edit permissions that you define. This establishes a secure relationship between your organization and your customers, which is the driving goal of Cognito Forms.
Entry import will allow organizations to quickly migrate data into Cognito Forms and create new entries from existing information. This feature will also support bulk editing by allowing you to download your entry data to a spreadsheet, make bulk changes, and reimport your data to update your entries!
Form Building Enhancements
While enhancing entry management will definitely be a theme throughout 2016, we know we still have room to grow to expand the types of forms you can create with Cognito Forms. Here are a few of our more ambitious ideas we are considering:
Our responsive two-column form builder makes it easy to create sophisticated forms very quickly. By leveraging our experience developing the Table field, you will be able to resize any of your fields to have a bit more control over your form design. Want four fields on one line—no problem! Our goal is to do this while still providing the best responsive mobile experience and the fastest form builder on the planet.
We have had tons of requests to support inventory limits for fields on our forms, including simple choice-based quantity limits and more complex scenarios like date and/or timeslot availability. Inventory control will make it easy to use Cognito Forms for product orders, ticket sales, signups, and reservations—anything for which limited quantities are available!
As a nice companion to inventory limits, our proposed quantity field will make it easy for you to build great looking forms that allow users to specify the quantity of items they want, with simple visualizations. This will work hand-in-hand with inventory limits but will also work great by itself and with payment fields.
No form should be its own island, cut off from the rest of the forms for your organization. The Lookup field will connect these islands of information by allowing you to specify a link to another form. Similar to the Choice field, you will be able to select dropdown, radio button and checkboxes options whose choices automatically update based on entries from the related form. And best yet, this lookup data will be available for calculations, allowing you to reference other information, like scores, ratios, prices, dates, etc.
While looking up data from other forms is great, our goal is to also allow Cognito Forms to connect with other cloud services and your own information silos dynamically as users fill out your forms. Dynamic webhooks will build on the Lookup field by automatically pulling data from JSON webhooks to both populate lookups and prefill other aspects of your form.
While not all of our customers use payment features in Cognito Forms, those that do are passionate and eager to see us continue to expand these capabilities to help them run their organizations. We have already spent a lot of time exploring three such features:
Partial payments allow customers to pay less than the total amount due initially and return later to pay additional amounts or potentially modify their order. This supports scenarios like down payments, scheduled installment payments, order updates, etc.
In many cases, the initial form submission represents the establishment of a long term relationship with your customer. Subscription billing enhances payment capabilities for these scenarios by allowing you to create automatically recurring payments (subscriptions), as well as store credit card information securely in Stripe/PayPal for unforeseen charges down the road.
Some people prefer to pay via an automatic draft from their bank account instead of using credit/debit cards. With Stripe’s recent announcement supporting ACH payments, we are considering ways of making this available as a payment option for our customers, especially in conjunction with subscription billing.
Our Word-based document generation is extremely powerful and we are really excited to get it into your hands as soon as possible. With the combination of rich formatting via Word and our calculation-capable merge fields and repeating section support, the sky’s the limit! However, we know from experience a lot of organizations already have PDF forms that are not also available in a Word-based format. These two features seek to address the needs of this audience.
PDF templates will make it easy for you to map merge fields in your existing PDF files with data in your Cognito forms to generate documents. While not as flexible as Word-based templates, this will make the paperless transition easier for organizations with lots of preexisting PDF form templates.
To jumpstart the paperless revolution, we are considering building a PDF importer to automatically build a form based on your existing PDF document. Once we get PDF templates in place, we will look into this approach so you can go from PDF to embeddable, responsive online form in minutes, not hours.
How You Can Help
As you can see, we have been thinking about a lot of great features. They all sound great to us, and we want to make them happen. However, great products take time to develop, so we need your help to prioritize this work and make sure we get these features right.
Please take some time to visit these ideas on our Idea Board and up-vote and comment on the features that are important to you! Again, thank you for your support in helping us grow and shape Cognito Forms over the past two years! We are excited to be working on delivering great features for our customers in 2016!
Jamie is co-founder of Cognito Forms, an online form builder for organizations seeking to quickly and easily connect with their customers. In his free time, Jamie loves spending time with his wonderful wife and kids, training for triathlons, camping with boy scouts, singing in the choir, and trying out the latest gadgets.