1. Nicoll, Leslie H. MBA, PhD, RN, BC

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FormArtist, Quask Ltd, Unit 9, Ransome's Dock, 35-37 Parkgate Road, London SW11 4NP, United Kingdom. Telephone: 1-866-624-4749 (toll free from the United States), E-mail:;, Price: Presto ($49); Standard ($199); Professional ($899); Enterprise (customized pricing)


For many years I had a goal to put the review process for CIN online, but refused to do so until I could find a method that would meet my standards. I wanted an online process that was easy for the reviewers to complete, secure, and returned the data to me in a form that I could quickly compile and store. E-mail responses and forms in attachments (such as Word) were not sufficient and so I continued with my traditional paper-and-mail review process. Then, FormArtist entered my life.


I received a press release from Quask Ltd, introducing FormArtist. Its promise that I could "rapidly create and publish Web and e-mail based forms, surveys, e-brochures and opinion polls, without any technical knowledge or programming abilities" caught my eye. Not only would the program allow me to create a survey, responses would automatically be sent to me in an e-mail report that would mirror the content of the survey. This was the only enticement I needed to give the program a try. I downloaded the trial version and went to work.


Using my paper review form as a template, I designed an online review form (you can see it at The program was very easy to use and intuitive, but as with any software product, some learning was required. Fortunately, at the Quask Web site, they have a number of tutorials to get you started. I found these very helpful to understand the basics of using the program and get up and running quickly.


To design a form, you can use an existing style or a predesigned form. The predesigned forms cover a variety of topics, such as market research, customer surveys, or employee reviews. None of the predesigned forms were appropriate to my project, but I found it very helpful to spend time just looking at different forms, which gave me a good sense of the variety and capabilities of the program. They also gave me some ideas for my review form. A style provides a consistent look for all the pages of your form. Eight styles come with the program-not all of them are to my taste, but I did select one with a computer theme for my initial effort. It is also possible to start with a blank form and design your own style with logos, colors, and so on.


The next step is to begin adding fields for data input. FormArtist has a variety of data entry types, including boxes for text and numeric input; drop down menus; "tickboxes" (check boxes to those of us in the United States); and emoticons. Emoticons, which are unique to FormArtist, allow the respondent to rate an answer. Faces smile or frown; glasses of water can be rated as full, half-full, or empty; and a judge holds up a placard with a score from 1 to 10. The emoticons add a dimension of fun to the rating process and I used them liberally in my form.


Once I got started, designing my form was easy and quick. I included demographic information from the reviewer (name, e-mail address, date); rating pages for manuscript content and format; and 2 pages for written comments. After the basic form was designed, I polished it by adding navigation buttons and page titles. Some "behind-the-scenes" work was required, which included naming the various data entry boxes so that the e-mail report I would receive would make sense.


The big moment arrived: testing the form. Quask has a testserver to which you can deploy a form to see how it works. However, for actual use, you need a server that will host your form. Either way, deploying a form is simple. You do not have to know any programming language or HTML; FormArtist takes care of all that. Once the form is on the server, you can complete it and a report will be sent to you or to whatever e-mail address you specify.


The testing process was iterative. I did find a number of small mistakes in the form and final report but it was easy to recall the form, make corrections, and then redeploy. Eventually, everything was all set and I was ready to deploy the form for actual use.


As I said, I needed to have a Web site to host the form. Quask has an arrangement with Blue Domino ( for Webhosting services which guarantees that you will be able to deploy the form without problems. I decided to take advantage of this offer, signed up, registered my domain name ( and deployed the form. At this same time, I realized I had outgrown the trial version and purchased the Standard version for my ongoing needs.


The differences between the Presto, Standard, and Professional versions are listed in Table 1. What pushed me to the Standard version was the ability to store data on the server, then recall the form and download the data into a variety of database formats, including SPSS. Over the years I have spent countless hours entering data into SPSS; I believe that the ability to have that done automatically is a bargain at $199.

Table 1 - Click to enlarge in new windowTable 1. No Caption Available.

Wanting to test this feature, I developed a brief "reader's survey" for my other journal, The Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing. Once the form was designed, it was ready for deployment. However, unlike the CIN review form, I had a specific group of readers I wanted to notify to complete the survey. I was able to import names and e-mail addresses from my journal database into the FormArtist address book. Then, when the form was deployed, an individualized e-mail notification was sent to each person. I was able to write personalized letters and the program inserted respondents' names into the appropriate places. It also gave each recipient a customized link to complete the survey.


Within minutes, responses started coming in. I received the standard report in e-mail, which allowed me to easily track the number who completed the survey. After 2 weeks, I recalled the form and data, which I easily imported into SPSS. Variable names and value labels were all in place, based on the way I had named the data entry forms in my original survey. Although a little tweaking was necessary, I was able to analyze the results and create a report in a fraction of the time it would normally take. I was impressed!!


Using this feature, the reports came back to me with the e-mail address of the respondent; this was created from the original link in the notification letter that was sent. This feature also ensured that every respondent replied to the survey only one time, using a cookie to log responses. This is in contrast to the CIN review, which does not log cookies and allows multiple responses from the same user. Of course, this makes sense since reviewers may complete several reviews during their tenure as a reviewer.


Over the course of my various reports and surveys, I have had a few problems, all of which were quickly answered and corrected by the support team at Quask. In particular, several reader survey respondents complained that some of the screens were not legible. I learned that to correctly read a survey, the font on your computer screen needs to be set to 96 dpi (which is the usual setting). However, some users had adjusted this setting to accommodate their vision and thus the survey did not appear correctly on their screens. Another respondent asked if it is possible to start the survey and come back later to complete it. Unfortunately, this feature is not available in the Presto, Standard, or Professional versions. Knowing this, a word to the wise is to create surveys that can easily be completed in one sitting (say, 15 minutes). This is good survey practice, anyway, but FormArtist helps to reinforce the lesson.


Because the program is so easy to use, and fun, I have developed a number of other forms, including a reviewer application and a meeting RSVP. The latter allowed me to begin to explore scripting, where the form branches to different screens, depending on a respondent's answer. In the RSVP, if the respondent replied "No, I won't be able to attend," the form presented a screen that said, "We're sorry, we'll miss you." On the other hand, if the respondent said "yes," then the form branched to a series of screens with details of the meeting, including date, time, location, and a preliminary agenda. I was able to ask for comments and feedback on the agenda and thus the final meeting was planned to specifically meet the attendees' needs.


All in all, I highly recommend FormArtist. Its ease-of-use, intuitive interface, excellent customer support, and very competitive pricing make it a winner.


Minimum system requirements: Windows 98/ME/XP/2000/NT, Pentium 133 MHz or faster, 64MB RAM, 20MB free hard disk space. Server to host the deployed forms.