Online Forms | Written by

Town Web can help you launch an attractive, easy-to-use website that features online forms.

From small towns to big cities, municipalities of all sizes have forms. Wouldn’t it be nice to make those documents available to your residents as online forms? 

That’s one of the benefits of a Town Web website. Your forms – applications, permits, licenses and more – can be included on your website for residents and visitors to access easily.

What are online forms?

Municipalities need to collect certain information from residents and provide certain services. In order to do much of that work, towns, cities and villages use forms. Paper documents were the standard for many years, but now that more municipalities have websites, those documents are becoming online forms.

An online form is an electronic version of a paper document. Residents and visitors to a website can find a list of online forms and click on the ones they need. The list will link to the document, which usually opens in a new tab. Some forms can be filled out and returned electronically. Other forms can be printed and mailed or delivered in person.


What online forms can I put on my website?

Municipalities typically include forms on their websites that are frequently used by residents, although, as a website owner, you could include any forms you wish.

Some typical forms municipalities include on their websites are:

  •       Pet licenses
  •       Building permits
  •       Job applications
  •       Applications for liquor licenses and bartenders
  •       Voter registration and absentee ballot applications
  •       Business license forms
  •       Property development forms
  •       Recreational permits (parks, boat launches, shelter rentals, etc.)
  •       Burning permits

How do online forms work?

There are a couple of common types of forms: fillable online forms and PDF forms. (We talk about both in more detail later in this post.)

Your residents will see a list of forms on your website. They can click on a link to open a document to view it. Then, users can download forms or fill them out, depending on the type of form.

After downloading a form, the user can save it and print it out to fill it out or use a program to type on the document before saving it and printing it or returning it by email.

Documents that are printed and filled out by hand also can be scanned and returned by email. 

You can request forms to be returned to you by mail or email. Be sure to provide detailed instructions for users to follow.


How do residents use online forms?

Residents can view forms, download them or fill them out and return them electronically. It depends on the kind of forms you use and how you want to interact with your residents.

Some of your residents will want to do everything online. They would prefer to open a form, fill it out and return it electronically. If a payment is involved, they likely will want to pay online, as well.

Other residents may prefer to download a form, print it off, fill it out and either mail it or drop it off with any payment.

At the very least, you should make forms that can be downloaded and printed. Clean, clear copies of documents should be provided to upload to your website.

Forms and documents that are saved as PDF files can be opened using Adobe Acrobat. This program will give users the option to fill and sign the document electronically, even if it isn’t a fillable document. The user can save the document and fill it out, then return it by email.


Are online forms secure?

A Town Web website is designed to be safe from hackers or anyone who wants to gain access. Your documents also are safe on your website.


What are PDF forms?

PDF forms are any document saved as a PDF, which stands for “portable document format.” This type of file can be opened on any device and doesn’t require the user to have a special program. 

For example, if you create a document in Word or Excel, only users who have those programs can open the documents. If, however, you save that Word or Excel file as a PDF, anyone can open the document.

Check out the two videos below for additional PDF tips.

What are fillable forms?

Fillable forms allow users to type directly onto a form. Often, you can use the tab or enter keys on your keyboard to advance to the next box.

Fillable forms are nice because they are easy to read – you don’t have to try to decipher someone’s printing or penmanship. They are easy to use. Some computer programs will help prefill forms, offering users suggestions for common questions, such as name and address.

Even basic PDF forms can be made into fillable forms if the user opens the document with Adobe Acrobat. The user can download the document, save it, then open it with Adobe Acrobat and choose the “fill and sign” option. By clicking on a spot on the document, an option to type pops up. Depending on how the document is set up, the tab keys will work, too.


Why use online forms?

  •       More people are seeking information online, and your residents are no different. People expect forms to be available online, so give them what they want.
  •       Using online forms can make it easier for your residents and visitors to get the information they need when they need it. That could be on a night or weekend when no one is available to take a call.
  •       Online forms are convenient. You can point people to your website if they call or email. They don’t need to visit your office to get documents.
  •       They can save you time if you don’t have to take calls or answer questions about forms you provide. Especially for basic things, an online form can remove work from your day. Take for example a dog license. If you include the fee schedule on the form with instructions on how to fill it out, residents can easily download the form, fill it out and return it with the proper payment. You don’t have to take time to explain it, provide the fees or wait for someone to fill it out and make a payment.


How do I get started with online forms?

  1.     Make a list of the forms you have and decide which ones you’d like to put online. You may wish to include the ones people use most often.
  2.     Gather good, clean copies of forms. If you have an electronic version, that’s best, but if you only have a paper document, it still can be scanned and uploaded. You may wish to recreate in Word or Excel any documents that don’t have electronic version. Then, you have it for future use, and you can make changes to it.
  3.     If you need to, add instructions to any forms that require them.
  4.     Decide if you want PDF forms or fillable forms. Fillable forms may need to be recreated in a program that allows them to be filled and sent electronically. PDF forms can be created using most word-processing or spreadsheet-based programs.
  5.     Provide the forms to Town Web to upload to your website.

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