Why XFP’s New Form Builder will change the way you build forms

Working alongside Adam, our team’s Product Designer, I’ve spent the last few weeks bringing the first mockups of the new form builder to life.

We made a pretty brave decision from the off, and started from a blank slate. This means that when you use the form builder for the first time, you’ll be using something brand new. Every interface has been built from scratch in Jadu’s Pulsar framework, and the back-end code completely rewritten. Each entity has a brand new class, and all database interactions will now be carried out using Doctrine ORM. This blank slate is really important, as it’s given us the freedom to think ‘How do we want this to work?’ rather than ‘How can we make this work alongside what’s already there?

Page Templates

With the freedom to re-imagine everything, we designed the first major concept of the new form builder - Page Templates. In the new form builder, every page is based off a Page Template. This is incredibly powerful, as it means you can create a ‘Personal Details’ page template, and then use it across every form. Every page using the template can have its own title and instructions, but all will share the same questions. You will now only need to add a question to the template for all pages using the template to mirror it automatically.

Of course, if a page template is in use across all of your forms, any updates to the template need to be carefully managed. That’s why all Page Templates will be versioned, and subject to the same workflow for approval as other content types in Continuum CMS, such as Homepages and Document Pages. This should prevent accidental changes to live forms, and provide a backup if a change needs to be quickly reverted. The new form builder will also support private Page Templates, so changes to the template only affect the corresponding form.

We’ve also improved the questions themselves - every form component will now be rendered with Twig. This makes styling forms much easier, and brings the ability to add custom question types to XFP for the first time.

form builder image

What else?

Whilst the new page designer provides a great user experience, we’ve also reworked the way pages are added into forms. You decide how your form is structured, rather than have XFP ‘guess’ where pages should appear. This was something I was very keen to improve, and Adam’s flow diagram approach provides a perfect overview of a form’s current structure. My favourite feature of the new form builder is dragging a page into the diagram, and seeing how the form structure changes. It’s more intuitive, and should let you create more logical form flows.

We’re hard at work getting a first preview of the form builder up and running. Because we’re building from the ground up, this will support simple forms to start with, and we’ll iterate over the coming months to add more advanced functionalities. We’re excited to show you the re-imagined XFP very soon!
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