Web design used to be so simple.
In the early days of the internet, web pages were static collections of text, images, and other graphic elements. Visitors could browse the web and look at what was there but not much else.
Since then, many websites have become increasingly interactive. A good amount of content for some, such as Wikipedia, is generated by users. For most sites, though, there is a more give-and-take relationship between their owners and visitors. This includes e-commerce sites like Amazon, patient-doctor portals, and even something as simple as an online job application form.
Web design is no longer just a site’s “look.” Another significant component consists of the different ways data is collected.
Online data collection
The data collected online includes everything from overall usage trends and statistics down to a highly granular level for each user.
Due to ever-increasing digital connectivity, security is more important than ever before. Web users want to know their information is safe. Given the global reach of the internet, all websites should conform to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Implemented in 2018, the GDPR is intended to protect users’ personal information and how it’s used; violating its terms can result in significant fines.
4 data collection lessons
At the most basic level, a website must offer seamless functionality across multiple devices and platforms. Otherwise, all data collection efforts will be significantly impaired from the outset. Here are four key issues to keep in mind to avoid data bottlenecks as well as maintain the security of user data.
1. Capturing contact information
To generate leads, complete transactions, and define buyer personas, you must collect basic contact information. This requires gathering the right data as well as optimizing it for timely use.
Having an online form to capture contact information is one thing. What happens to that information once it’s submitted is even more important. Where is it located? How is it formatted? Who can access it? How is it distributed?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer because flexibility is key. Instead of a single pipeline for this contact information, you should determine what format works best for the people and departments receiving this data. One option is to use a tool that automatically creates PDFs of this information and distributes them to the appropriate people.
2. Using e-signatures
Some documents, including contracts, proposals, and tax forms, must have an authorized signature. The turnaround time and transaction costs are always greater when a hard copy has to be printed, signed, copied (if necessary), and returned in person or via mail.
Using electronic signatures — e-signatures — is quicker and more secure. PDFs with fillable text fields embedded in them can be filled out online. The e-signatures on these PDFs provide an extra level of security due to data point collection and tracking.
3. Taking payments
One of the most critical points of consumer data collection occurs during e-commerce transactions. First, all order, customer, and payment information must be collected securely. This information must then remain secure to avoid the kinds of data breaches that are too frequently in the news.
To build and maintain the trust of customers, use 256-bit, high-grade Security Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates. Plus, make sure to renew these certificates annually to avoid hacks like the one Equifax suffered in 2017. It’s also important to have a user-friendly interface where users can build forms on the fly to meet specific transaction needs.
4. Complying with HIPAA
The United States does not have any regulations regarding consumer data privacy and usage on par with the EU’s GDPR. When it comes to personal medical information, however, all online data collection and subsequent use must follow the guidelines set forth in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, as well as subsequent related legislation, such as the HITECH Act and the HIPAA Omnibus Rule.
There are a wide range of concerns to be aware of here. First, a business association agreement (BAA) is necessary to ensure HIPAA compliance. Access via mobile devices, the submission of and storage of e-signatures, and collection of payments all need to be secure.
Utilizing online forms and PDFs for data collection
It’s imperative to ensure both the ease and security of data collection. Using online forms in conjunction with automated PDF creation can result in an optimized workflow. But to do this effectively, you must be able to edit a PDF. Fortunately, that is no longer the chore it once was. With online forms and automatic PDF generation, you can maximize your data collection efforts.
**The views & opinions expressed in this guest post are of the guest author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the Design Roast community as a whole.**