Managing Web Projects – Online Forms – Part II

In my previous post on online forms and project requirements, I discussed what can happen to data once a form is submitted. And while it is critical to understand what happens to the data, web developers developers also need to better understand the form data.

As defined in the previous post, an online form is an interactive interface where a user can submit one or more fields. The fields allow a user to submit data, where it can be their name, email address or even password.

There are two general types of fields:

  • Free-flowing fields. Often referred to as an input field of type TEXT, these allow a user to enter virtually any kind of data, including alpha numeric text, dates, or numbers.
  • Constrained fields. Often referred to as a SELECT field or an input field of type RADIO or CHECKBOX, these allow a user to enter pre-determined data.

Once a user enters information into a field, the field can be validated to ensure that the data is of the expected type (IOW, an email field gets an email address and not a first name). This is often referred to as a required field or a field that must be filled in order for the online form to be submitted/data to be accepted. There are two types of form data validation:

Online Form - Field Validation

  • Client-based data validation is the ability to use the web browser to validate the data before it is submitted to the server. This validation often relies on a client-side scripting language called Javascript. Custom Javascript validation can be coded by hand or can be done using a Javascript library, such as jQuery, MooTools, Prototype/Scriptaculous, etc.
  • Server-based data validation is the ability to use the web server to validate the data once it is submitted to the server. This validation often relies on a server-side scripting language, including ASP, ASP.NET, ColdFusion, JSP, PHP, etc.

So based on the above, project management should collect the following requirements regarding form data:

  • How many fields will appear on the form and what type of data will be submitted through each field?
  • Will the form require any validation and will it require client-based or server-based validation?
  • If validation is required (regardless of type), which fields will be validated and what is the expected data per field?
  • If client-based validation is required, will the Javascript be coded by hand or will it rely on a library? If it relies on a library, what type of library will be required?
  • If server-based validation is required, what kind of scripting language will be used to perform the validation?

These questions should help you round out the online form requirements gathering.

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