What HTML Forms Are For
The essence of serving up useful information is relevancy and immediacy. But the best judge of the quality of your information is your audience. Wouldn't it be wonderful if your readers could give you feedback on your Web pages? Then they could tell you what parts they like, what they don't like, and what other things they'd like to see included in your site.
What's in a Form?
When adding form support to a Web page, you include special tags that let you solicit input from users. You surround these tags with text that prompts user responses. You also include tags that gather the input and ship it to your Web server. Here's how the process works:
On a particular Web page, you include tags to set up a form and to solicit input from users. Some of your users will work their way through this material and provide the information that you want. This essentially amounts to filling out the form that you've supplied.
After users fill out your form, they can then direct their input to the program running on the Web sever. In most cases, they need to select a particular control, called SUBMIT, that gathers the information and sends it to the proper destination on your Web sever. The program running on the sever accepts the input information then decodes and interprets the contents for further action. A custom-built document is then sent to you and the user is sent to your "return page".
Forms involve two-way communication
The input-catching programs on your server rely on an interface between Web browsers and servers called the Common Gateway Interface (CGI). This interface codifies how browsers can send information back to the severs. It sets up the formatting for the user-supplied input information, so that forms-handling programs know what to expect and how to deal with what they receive.
The ACTION attribute in the <FORM> tag specifies a URL that indicates a specific CGI script or program that collects the form data that a user entered. Likewise, the METHOD attribute describes the way in which input data is delivered to a forms-handling program.
In this course, we will concentrate on the input side of HTML forms, that is, you find out how to build forms.
Tag! You're a Form
HTML includes several different classes of form tags. To begin with, all HTML forms occur within the <FORM>...</FORM> tags. The <FORM> tag also includes attributes that specify where and how to deliver input to the appropriate Web server.
Within the <FORM>...</FORM> tags, all other forms-related tags and text must appear. These tags include methods for:
Forms input tags support multiple ways to interact with users, including:
This may not sound like much, but when you combine it with the ability to prompt users for input with surrounding text, it provides a surprisingly powerful way to ask for information right on your Web page. Thus the real answer to the question at the beginning of this course: "What's in a form?" has to be: "Almost anything you want to put there!"