Creating and Customizing Forms

Welcome and thank you for signing up for an account with Submittable! Whether you’ll be receiving grant applications or submissions for a contest, it’s important to ensure that your form is customized to fit your organization’s specific needs and draw in qualified submitters.

As you get started, consider how to make your form as intuitive and simple as possible. You’ll want to gain the initial interest of potential submitters and applicants, but you also want to maintain their interest throughout the completion of the form to avoid drop-off.

Make the submission process effortless for submitters by keeping these tips in mind.

The Basics

To begin, go to the Forms page, select “Create a New Form,” and fill in the appropriate information in the General Settings tab. Once you’ve completed this step, you can start customizing your form in the Form Designer. Here, you’ll be able to add the necessary fields to your form, such as a title, cover letter, or file upload. Simply drag and drop from the right column of the Form Designer to add new fields to your form. After the fields are placed, you can also customize their order by dragging and dropping within the form. Finally, fill out the Assignments and Notifications tab to assign team members, customize your notifications, set blind levels, and more.

You are now ready to save your form and start receiving submissions. If you’d like to see a preview of the live form, you can click “View Your Site.”

For more in-depth guidelines on creating a form:

Give Thorough Guidelines

Guidelines (found in the General Settings tab) are your first opportunity to provide submitters with the tools they’ll need for a fast and easy application or submission experience. Avoid guidelines that are overly long, complicated, or redundant. If your potential submitters are confused by the guidelines, they might stop before even getting to the form. Instead, use the guidelines to explain your opportunity efficiently and instruct submitters on how to proceed. For example, if your opportunity is contingent on eligibility, make sure to clarify that in your guidelines.

Only Include the Minimum Number of Form Fields

Less is more. Overwhelming applicants with too many fields or requiring unnecessary information will result in a quick drop-off rate. Although it might be tempting to get carried away with questions, keep it to a bare minimum. Consider eliminating fields that aren’t necessary to get the job done. For example, while it may seem common-place to collect user information such as name and address, Submittable already stores this information for you.

If your opportunity is complex and requires more information, try grouping the form into subsections like “Profile” or “Application.” You can also use our additional forms feature to collect follow-up information from applicants that complete the first form — this allows the initial form to remain clean and simple without sacrificing necessary information.

Use Data Validation to Communicate with Submitters in Real-Time

There’s nothing worse than going through all the steps of filling out a form only to click submit and get an error message. With data validation, submitters will know they’ve made an error right away and can resolve it without the frustration of surprise red text at the end of the form.

When a submitter forgets to include a ‘@’ in their email address or spells out a number instead of using digits, they will receive an immediate note next to the field instructing them to correct the error. This not only saves your submitter a scavenger hunt through the form but ensures that the information you’re requesting is validated as well.

You can also use pre-formatted fields such as “Phone,” or set a word limit using the “Text Area” field. Learn more in our help article on Form Designer features.

Make Less Essential Questions Optional

Although you should try to avoid less essential questions whenever possible, there can be benefits to requesting extra information. If you decide to include these fields, make sure they are optional by leaving the “required” box unchecked. Instead of exhausting submitters with form fields, this leaves the ultimate decision up to them.

Provide Predefined Lists

Open-ended questions can cause confusion and, as a result, might lead applicants to abandon your form before it’s completed. Including a drop-down menu, radio list, or checkbox list of predefined answers for your questions eliminates the chance of confusion for your applicant and ensures that you get the answer you were looking for.  

Establishing a list of preset options also saves applicants the hassle of taking extra time to type out answers. This feature could be especially useful for questions about location, industry, education level, etc. Make sure your form doesn’t take more time than it’s worth by answering these questions for potential applicants ahead of time.


Just getting started? Reach out anytime for more help with forms at

Grace Hulderman

Grace Hulderman lives in Missoula, Montana, and works as a designer and marketing coordinator at Submittable. She's also a graphic artist and poet. You can view her work here: