Thursday, September 17, 2020

What Took Place When You Were Submitting an Online Form, Even When You Couldn't See It?

Ever wonder what happens when you submit an online application or fill out a form over the internet and hit the send button? These days, almost every inquiry, registration and submission can be processed digitally. eCommerce sites, service platforms and mobile apps incorporate online submissions in one way or another whether as a part of digital customer onboarding, customer support or troubleshooting. From a developer's standpoint, there are various methods, tactics and approaches when building form submission funnels, but there are certain key elements to consider.

Source: Pexels

Essentially, the purpose of online forms is to collect specific data about a website visitor such as for processing as part of a service subscription or for a college application among other things. 

In most cases, you'll probably find a relatively simple contact form containing fields for the kinds of details to be filled in (such as name, email address and phone number). Once you click submit, the next thing that happens is invisible to you as the applicant. Although you may not see it, there is an infrastructure in place to ensure that your data gets to where it's supposed to.

Data is Stored in a Submissions Storage

These days, many websites use an external service or system that helps to store all the data that's extracted from submitted forms. Form submissions might often contain the private information of website visitors or rather, potential clients, so the utmost priority for these service providers is ensuring that data is safely transferred and stored for later use by the respective site. Private data should not end up being published on the front end of sites for others to see and, for the most part, all authentic sources abide by this rule. Most sites will state this in some shape or form in their terms and conditions - so it would be a good idea to read through their sections. Numerous established form submission services help sites to securely store data. Security is likely to be a prominent value proposition for all of them.

Data collection systems are extremely crucial for many businesses online and are central to the customer onboarding process in most cases. Data collection systems help teams collect a standard set of information and allow companies to keep control and consistency as they collect data from their sites. These systems also help to organize the constant stream of data that pours in. This is why so many sites incorporate data collection systems, which are directly connected to the forms that visitors fill. Security and privacy are big parts of these systems, and many of the available third party data collection providers out there strive to accommodate businesses and consumers alike.

Applicant Tracking Systems

In other instances, the application process may differ slightly. For example, online job applications often require you to fill in details to create a profile of yourself, then this profile enters a portal or an applicant tracking system where your name will appear in a list of other candidates. From there, companies may use recruiters to look up jobs by requisition numbers to look for resumes that are a good fit. This type of process is slightly more manual and may rely on a slightly different kind of third-party service provider. Either way, these sites also abide by the privacy terms of protecting your personal information.

User Behaviour Tracking

On a side note, many websites these days apply user behaviour analytics (UBA) as a way to collect, analyze and track user data. The main purpose here is to better understand the movements, as well as actions undertaken by users as they interact with elements, sections, and the products on a website. Tracking user behaviour can help with improving the overall customer experience. However, some websites might have third-party tracking cookies which sometimes violate good industry privacy practices. These cookies might let advertisers and companies access user data. So, as a user, you might want to go through a site’s terms and conditions to check whether consumers' privacy expectations are met.

How Can You Tell If Your Data is Secure?

Privacy is indeed an important aspect of any data processing online. Identifying secure connections can be quite tricky at times, and there may be no way to tell if one connection is guaranteed to be protected. In some cases, users can stumble upon sources and sites that aren't genuine - some sites have even been designed by hackers to look authentic but are built to steal data. One simple and common way to identify secure connections is to look for the SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate which essentially verifies that a website has been approved as authentic and that the company behind the website is real and genuine. In this case, it's safe to assume that whatever information you submit to them will be kept as securely as possible. If a URL begins with "https" instead of just "http", then this is an indication that the site is encrypted with SSL certification. 

Make sure that the website has a privacy policy that you can read through, which should clearly state how your data will be collected, used and secured by the site. Some sites even have visible trust seal icons with words like "Secure" or "Verified". These icons indicate that the website is fortified with security partners. You may click on the icon badge and see if it leads to a verification page for extra confirmation.

Authorization Measures

These days, most secured sites will also feature various authorization measures and verification systems to help with their customer onboarding process or application form submission security. One common example is the human verification systems that we have all seen before - which essentially identifies that the applicant is a human and not an automated bot. These systems might require you to click on a ticking box or solve image-based puzzles to identify you as human.

In other application processes, there is an automated classification trigger that ensures an uploaded document or an image is provided by the applicant as part of the validation terms. The site might require you to upload documents and images in specific file formats and types (.jpeg or .doc for example) to ensure systemization and consistency.

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