Five Form Building Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

09 June 2016 by Cory MacVie

We’ve worked very hard to design Fulcrum so that it’s as easy as possible for our customers to use. In doing so, we’ve managed to “hide” a lot of the complexities around form & database design that many other platforms expose their users to. By dragging and dropping fields in our form builder, users are essentially creating a complex database without even being aware of it. Here are five important form building tips, in no particular order, that can assist new users when building their first form.

Using Numeric Field for Phone Numbers

At first, it may seem logical to use the numeric field for phone numbers. However, the numeric field is designed to be used for item counts, dollars, figures, etc. The field will not allow for dashes (727-867-5309) or multiple periods (727.867.5309). The best field for phone numbers is the Text field, with a validation pattern. Fulcrum offers the US Phone number pattern \d{3}[\-]\d{3}[\-]\d{4}, but you will want to build your own for the phone numbers of your country. Using the Text field for phone numbers will leave your phone numbers uniform. A nice addition would be using Data Events plus a hyperlink field to call the phone number entered in the record. Instructions to set up this data event can be found in our recent post on Data Events.

Validation Pattern Screen

Making Too Many Fields Required

One goal we have at Fulcrum is to make the experience of field data entry trouble free for the mobile user. While building Fulcrum, we put a great deal of effort into removing unnecessary complexities for users. Field users have little time on site, and time wasted on technology translates into money wasted for the company. I encourage managers to resist the urge to make fields required unless absolutely necessary. Our advice is to leave most fields NOT required initially, and see what fields users leave blank, if any. Incorporate the importance of form completion in your training process and make corrective measure with necessary field workers.

Required Fields

Not Using Sections or Nesting Sections Correctly

Do you have to scroll ‘for days’ to find the end of the form on the mobile device? Using visibility logic can to help reduce the amount of noise that your app presents to your field team. Clearly designating sections can also be beneficial to the data collector by grouping fields together into logical chunks. This can provide users with a better sense of where they are at in the data collection process, and it also helps with locating fields within an app.

Besides just grouping the fields together, sections can also change the way they are displayed. In the field settings for a section, you can set the section to be displayed either inline or drill down. When set to inline, the section and it’s contents will be displayed inline with the rest of the app. When set to drill-down, the section header (label) will be displayed inline with the rest of the app, when the user taps on the section header, they will be taken to a new page to view the fields within the section.

Lastly, nesting fields within a section can be a little tricky the first time. To nest a field into a section you will want to drag the field more towards the center of the palette area, over the top of the section field.

Field Test Your App

Before collecting real data with your app, it helps to spend a fair amount of time fine tuning. No app will ever be perfect the first time, but the sooner you discover ways to improve your own app, the better.

Start with getting feedback from others. Deploy your app as soon as possible to teammates, and ask them for honest feedback. Know that your app will change over time, and the sooner you get feedback, the faster improvements can be made. It is recommended that you do not rollout your app without beta testing it first. Receiving feedback from teammates, especially from individuals that will be using it in the field will be very important. You will discover ways to optimize your app, such as moving fields around, removing unnecessary fields, reducing or increasing mandatory fields, making more sections, adding repeatables and much more.

Use ‘Default to Previous Value’ Setting

A simple checkbox in a field can drastically reduce the time required to create a records for your field members. The ‘Default to Previous Value?’ setting is located in each field settings popup. When enabled, it will automatically populate with the value that was previously entered into that field. This allows field workers to quickly capture new records when much of the values are the same for a series of records. Keep in mind, this is a localized feature, meaning the field only retains the last value that was entered on the device being used, not other devices. This checkbox may go unnoticed for plan owners and managers but could be invaluable for a standard user in the field.

Default to Previous Value?

Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid some basic mistakes and make the most of your time collecting data in the field. If you ever get stuck, need advice, or have any questions, you can always reach us at info@fulcrumapp.com or contact us through the chat window at the bottom corner of your screen. Happy collecting!

About the author

Cory is our Product Manager for Fulcrum. He works to bring Fulcrum’s field data capability into the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief sectors.

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