In my experience, working with website forms is one of a nonprofit marketer’s least favorite tasks. (Or at least in the top 5…) Form builders can be confusing, and things rarely seem to work perfectly the first time around. But all the more reason for testing!

Learning how to test a website form ensures that your website visitors can work through and submit forms in exactly the way that you’d like them to.

Why to Test Your Forms

I’m sure that you’ve learned the hard way that blind trust can (and should) not extend to technology. When you learn how to test a website form, you gain the peace of mind that it’s doing its job collecting information, sending that information where it needs to go, and saving your team time in the process.

Aside from pinpointing forms that just plain do not work, form testing helps to clear up things like formatting mistakes, bugs in the form technology, issues with integrations and other things that can get a little wonky in an online form.

It can also help you catch pieces of a form that technically work but may be confusing to someone trying to submit it.

It’s never a good feeling to realize that a form is frustrating for your visitors or hasn’t been working as intended, especially if you’re counting on it to accept registrations, donations or other important supporter information.

How to Test a Website Form

Now that we’ve convinced you to test, test, test, let’s get into how to test a website form on your nonprofit’s site. These steps are meant to test website forms that are embedded directly into a page on your website rather than forms your visitors have to leave your site to fill out.

We typically work with WordPress websites, which enable you to preview and test updates on a page or blog post before publishing them, but if that’s not possible on your organization’s website, be sure to work through the following testing process as soon as possible after publishing a new form.

Ensure the form appears on the page correctly

Once you’ve built your form and added it to a page on your website, preview the page before making it live on your website.

  • Does the form look okay?
  • Does it appear in the correct place on the page?
  • Are all of the form fields included as you’d expect?
  • Are other oddities, like formatting errors or visible snippets of code, pulling through along with the form fields?

Consider accessibility

You want all of your website visitors to be able to use your website forms as intended. Web accessibility is especially important for the forms on your website, which are often how people are able to get involved with your programs and services.

  • Are the questions easy to read and understand?
  • Is the form mobile friendly?
  • Can users unable to hold a mouse use the tab key to navigate through the form?
  • What does it sound like on a screen reader? Try out free screen reader tools, like NVDA for Windows computers and VoiceOver for Mac computers.
  • Are there any steps or questions that you’re unsure about when you complete the form yourself?

Accessibility issues can be a lot to unpack, but it’s absolutely worth striving toward if your nonprofit has the resources. Get more tips for testing accessibility on your nonprofit website.

Test error messages

To ensure that those completing your form include all of the required information in a way that the form can understand, most online forms will show error messages to your users when necessary. For example, when someone forgets to complete a required form field.

It’s always a good idea to test these error messages by attempting to submit the form without completing one or more required form fields.

  • Do you see an error message or does the form allow you to submit it anyway?
  • Does the form indicate what needs to be done in order to submit it?
  • Is the error message easy to find, or will someone be confused about why the form didn’t submit?

Test conditional questions

Some online form builders allow for conditional form fields, which is a fancy way to say fields will show up or be hidden based on responses to other fields within the form. For example, if someone answers “yes” to a question about whether or not you should contact them, another field would appear to ask for their phone number.

  • If your form includes any conditionals, are they displaying correctly based on the form field that they’re tied to?

Check the submission message or Thank You page

Most form builders allow you to display a message or send visitors to a thank you page after successfully submitting a form.

  • Do you see the correct message or page after submitting the form?
  • Does it appear as you’d expect it to?
  • Does it tell a visitor what the next step in the process is?

Test email notifications

Many form builders will also allow you to send email notifications to the person who submitted the form and/or members of your team after the form has been submitted.

  • When you submit the form, do the notification emails you’ve set up go out as you’d expect?
  • Does the email itself look okay?
  • What about the email subject line and sender info?

Look at form entries

In order to collect accurate information that you’ll be able to use later, make sure that all of your test form submissions are showing up correctly in the back end of your form building tool.

Test integrations

If you set up any third-party integrations where you’re passing information from your form into another tool, check to ensure they’re working. Many of the nonprofits we work with set up integrations with things like email marketing platforms, payment processing tools, and CRM software.

Check the settings of your form to see if there are any integrations to test. If there are, you’ll need to log into the tool to make sure all the information has been sent correctly.

If the type of information that’s passed varies based on the answers in the form itself, make sure that you’ve tested each by submitting the form with various answers. For example, a donation form may have an integration feed with a payment processor for one-time donations and a separate feed for monthly donations. You’d need to test the form twice, once for each of those options, to ensure everything is pulling through as expected.

Clean up test submissions

Once you wrap up all of your testing, be sure to clean up after yourself. That may include deleting test submissions from your site, refunding payments, removing emails from your email list, or anything else that should be cleaned up since the form was only submitted for testing purposes.

Fixing Form Issues

Oftentimes, building forms can be a trial and error process. When things don’t look or work as you’d expect, try again. You can check out any resources that your form builder provides for their tool or reach out to their team directly with specific questions. If it’s a common error for a popular tool, searching for solutions to the issue in a search engine may also shed some light.

While it may not be many marketers’ favorite subject, using and testing forms on your website is essential to offering visitors a good experience and opening up capacity across your team. Forms allow you to simplify, organize and save time on common types of nonprofit information collection. But only if they’re working properly.

Does your organization test all of its online forms? Have any other questions about how to test a website form? Let us know in the comments.