Using Email to Collect File Uploads for a Form

Forms that have files uploads are a target for spam. Instead, ask your users to submit supporting documents like CVs and writing samples via email.

Having a file upload field on your Formidable form creates a vulnerability through which spammers can upload files into your media library, causing an influx of form submissions, and, in extreme cases, making it difficult for you to access your site’s dashboard.

As an alternative to having users upload files directly to your Formidable form, you can ask users to submit supporting documents via WUSTL Box or email. The method you choose depends on the type and number of files you plan to collect and your personal workflow preferences.

Asking your users to submit their supporting documents to your email account is a secure way to collect files in any format through a WUSTL-affiliated platform, creating a cohesive experience that your users (and you!) can trust.

Follow the instructions below to collect supporting documents through email or see our guide (linked below) to use WUSTL Box to collect file uploads.

Add email instructions to your Formidable form

Most likely by this point you have already created your Formidable form and even added it to a page. If you need more guidance on these processes, see our Forms Builder Guide for full instructions.

There are a few modifications, detailed below, that you will need to make to your form build, settings and page content to set up this process.

Emailing files

Here’s an example of a form that asks users to email their files along with their form submission.

We recommend you take a quick look at this example now, and then refer back to it while you read the instructions below to see all the pieces in action.

When collecting file uploads through email, users may choose to email you their files before or after they submit the form.

Provide all the information and resources your users need up front, and then give them tools throughout the process to send that email off whenever they are ready.

List the files you want users to submit

Add some text above the form explaining that in addition to submitting this form, users are expected to email supporting documents.

Start by saying something like, “In addition to completing the form below, you must email the following documents to” Then list out everything you want them to upload, such as CV and writing sample, along with any file requirements.

Use this space to tell users how and where you would like them to include identifiers on their files so that you are able to match file uploads to form entries later. (See the sample form for ideas on wording.)

You may also wish to tell users to keep an eye out for a confirmation email after they submit the form with further instructions. Read below for tips on including instructions in the confirmation email.

Make a bold call to action

Use the Button Block to boldly call your users to upload their files now:

  • The button text should be descriptive and action-oriented.
  • The button link will go to the email address that is receiving file submissions. To link an email address, add mailto: before the address, like this:

Accessibility best practice says we should never add link text to an email address because users aren’t able to copy and paste the address. However, in this case you have written out the email address in full right above the button, so it’s ok for the button to link to an email address without explicitly listing it. If you do not write out the email address as in the example above, then you should include it on this button.

Add a reminder to the on-screen confirmation

For every form, you have the option to show users an on-screen confirmation message after they submit the form. This is a good place to add a note reminding users to email their files to you if they have not already done so. Be sure to include the email address here in case they didn’t make note of it on the form page.

In every other aspect of the WashU Web Theme, HTML is not required. But in Formidable Forms we must occasionally use light coding to add formatting to plain text fields, such as the on-screen confirmation message. If you are not familiar with HTML, don’t worry! Follow the steps below to obtain the code you need.

Be sure to check your work by testing the form before making it public. Complete a couple of test submissions and take a look at the on-screen message so that you see what your users will see when they submit the form. If anything doesn’t look right, make adjustments and send another test submission. Be patient; it can take several tries to get everything just right.

How to code HTML fields

  1. Create a draft page on your site and type out the message you want to appear on the form, including bold, italics, links and any other desired formatting. Contain your message in one paragraph block.
  2. Hover over the block, click the three dots menu on the right side of the top toolbar and select Edit as HTML.
  3. Copy the entirety of the text you see in the block. Do not skip any brackets or symbols, even if they seem strange.
  4. Paste everything into the plain text field in Formidable.
  5. Check your work! Be sure to test your form to make sure everything appears as intended.

Set the confirmation email Reply To

By this point your users should be well aware that they need to email you supporting documents in addition to submitting their form. In fact, they may have already sent that email by the time they click Submit. And if not, you have reminded them in the on-screen confirmation. However, there is one more step you can take to ensure that those files hit your inbox without you having to reach out to users and remind them.

In addition to the on-screen confirmation message, you can program a confirmation email to automatically go out to users as soon as they submit the form. Here are two ways you can make it super easy for your users to send you their files as soon as they get the confirmation email:

  1. In the Message section of the notification, add another reminder along with your email address again. If your users happened to close the browser after submitting the form without making note of your email address, now they have it in their inbox and can easily keep track of the information. (This is another plain text field, requiring light HTML coding as described above.)
  2. In the notification settings, on the right side of the screen below the From field, is a Reply To button; click this to add a Reply To field and enter your email address here. Setting the Reply To to your email address means that all users have to do to submit their files now is reply to the email. Be sure to include a note in the email message letting users know that they can reply to this email and attach their files.

Use a shared email address

You can use any email address to collect supporting documents, but we recommend using a email address so that your users feel trust and security in this process.

We also recommend using a shared email address if possible. This will allow multiple people in your group or department to access the emailed files. If your group doesn’t have a shared email address and you would like to request one, please complete the appropriate form: