Conversational forms, adios web forms?

I enjoy filling up those forms.

Say no one ever.

How does the future of forms – including lead forms, government services forms- will look like, how collecting data will change when conversational interfaces are more mainstream among users? This is a question that has been in my head for a few months now.

We are leveling up computing and devices with conversations, the most human of all traits, and once users are there is going to seem anachronic to ask a user to fill a regular form on your website, let alone on mobile where is even harder. But is it this future that far ahead as it sounds?

Web forms are the building elements of the web, with the links being the connected brain. Forms made the web the place to extract information at scale, for services to be completely online and for the advent of SaaS and automatization of business operations at internet scale (And search, social media, etc).

Forms are about controls modification where the controls vary between input, checkboxes, radio buttons etc. Controls usually follow a visual pattern that contributed to its spreading. It has evolved so much that we now enter our credit card information in forms almost in a daily basis.

The problem is form data is structured and conversational deals with unstructured language and structured data. It might seem simple to fill some slots, until the complexity of handling the multiple ways users can refer to the same thing comes into play. Nonetheless, it’s completely possible, I will argue that is necessary as we move into more conversational interfaces and voice activated systems that the ways we collect information from users change as well.

I did a quick research of the current state of conversational in substitution of web forms or services that provide new ways of doing what we usually do today in the web with forms. I should stop here and clarify that you can also completely replace web forms with chatbots or voice apps.

So, in essence, we have 2 points for capturing information: what is known as conversational form pattern like this:

or by chatbots and voice applications. After all, every voice application is filling up some data on the user.

This is are the services you can use to transform your forms to conversational today:

Fobi is a service by that allows you to turn any Google Form into conversational, you only need the URL of the form and Fobi will ask customization questions and voila, you have a Url with a bot for your form that submits the responses directly to Google Form results.

Conversational form is an open source project developed by SPACE10 that turn webforms into conversations. You can include Conversational forms in your websites with an npm package or directly including the JS script tag. You can find a live demo here

Typeform has as part of their labs conversations, which is not a web form replacement per se but more a way to turn web content into conversations. I read the an article they did as an example (can’t find the link) and I really didn’t liked it. It felt it was in the middle of the content.

The marketing platform Drift provides now LeadBot to replace your lead forms in what is called conversational marketing.

In all honesty, I hate all these sites popping up a chatbot to ask me questions that I haven’t asked or need and then when I do ask something they don’t have the answer. It seems the developers and designers were so focused on the welcoming experience and telling me I have been there already that planning for the things that I might actually need got overlooked. Apparently, this is not a high regarded opinion. Acquire in their Top 7 reasons why chatbots will replace your contact forms listed as number one the preemptive ability of chatbots. For me that’s a strength and a weakness if not used correctly:

The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations. –

Roy H. Williams

Now to be truly game changing your bot can not be as static as a web form. I was just testing a web form that wouldn’t move past requiring my email for something totally unrelated to the form. If it’s optional, it should be able to move around it, as we move in conversations when we feel the other side doesn’t want to disclose something. No one asks the same question over and over and refuse to move forward unless is an interrogation, then you have bigger problems.

Note that large forms with complex data I think is better if it has a visual component as aide to it. What I think conversational will provide value for large inputs is providing the smart. Have you ever have had to fill the same information in different forms in the same website? I’ll take that as a yes, we all had to. There’s a lot of ground to cover but conversational forms are here to stay or evolve into conversations only. And I’m here for it.

I’m Mari, short for the legendary and unique Marisniulkis, This is VoiceFirst Weekly daily briefing, you can find me on Twitter as @voicefirstlabs and on Instagram as @voicefirstweekly.

You have a great day and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

About the Author
The ultimate resource in the voice space. Conversational interfaces, voice interfaces, smart speakers and smart assistants, voice strategy, audio branding.

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