Fulcrum Tips and Tricks

10 April 2013 by Andie Dodd

Fulcrum is an extremely powerful tool for mobile data collection, especially since you do not need to have any knowledge of or experience with GIS or data collection to be able to effectively use it. It is very easy to learn how to use Fulcrum, but with the limitless customization possibilities, we understand it may be overwhelming for a new user. We advise everyone, especially new users, to check out the new user walkthrough and help. In the mean time, here are a few quick tips and tricks.

1. Think about the presentation of the app

Especially if you are building an app that field surveyors or inspectors will be using, you will want to be sure that the app you create is well organized, streamlined, and that directions are included so that others understand exactly what needs to be done. Using many of the elements mentioned below will help insure that your app is formatted efficiently. Organized, well thought out apps bring in the most complete data.

2. Incorporate sections to control the mobile workflow

Sections are essential for creating a well organized app, especially when the app is going to be extensive. Just as data fields are grouped into relevant sections on any paper form, your Fulcrum fields should be grouped into sections. Breaking your app into sections limits the scrolling a surveyor will have to do on the mobile device, especially when using drill-down sections, the data collector will only have to focus on one section at a time.

Sectioning out data fields
notice that just leaving out sections can make an app incredibly confusing.
Data Collection Methods

3. Choose wisely between single choice, multiple choice, and classification sets

Think about whether a field should be single choice or multiple choice. Will a field surveyor ever need to select more than one choice? Do you want them to be able to select more than one choice? If you find you will need to reuse a choice list, such as a yes/no or poor/fair/excellent picklists, create and save it outside of the app builder! Make sure you understand the difference between a customizable choice list and a custom classification set, as there are situations where one is much more useful than the other.

4. Don’t overlook the ‘other’ and ‘required field’ boxes

When creating a choice list, it is important to decide whether the users in the field should be able to add an ‘other’. In some cases, it may be essential to disable ‘other’ to ensure that only the values given can be selected. In other cases, you may not be able to get the right information unless ‘other’ is enabled. Similarly, to ensure that users collect exactly the information needed, you may need to check the ‘required’ option. When a field is required, a record cannot be saved if it is not filled out.

5. Don’t forget about conditional logic

Conditional skip logic, which consists of requirement rules and visibility rules, can help keep an app organized by only displaying fields when specific conditions are met. This can significantly shorten and organize an app with a lot of variable details, and keep your data integrity high.

6. Use labels and field descriptions

You want to use labels when you have brief but important information or instructions to include for data collectors. Since a label is displayed in line with the app, it is ideal for anything of higher priority and a bit shorter in length. In cases where instructions are very long and more specific to a single field, you would want to add that into the field’s description box. Unlike the labels, a description is viewed separately from the app when the user clicks the info icon shown on the mobile device.

7. Be sure the ‘Data Name’ is concise

Sometimes when naming fields, you may end up with a pretty long sentence or question. If you are planning on exporting your Fulcrum data as a shapefile, a CSV to be viewed in excel, or anything else that displays a column name, you will want to shorten the data name. For example, if your data includes a title along the lines of ‘Are there any problems or hazards in the yard or with the exterior of the property?’, you would want to shorten that to something like ext_hzrd.

8. Make sure you have the mobile updates

Always be sure that your mobile application is updated to the latest version. We are constantly making improvements to Fulcrum. Additionally, our development team wants to hear your feedback and suggestions on improvements. Keeping the app updated will ensure that you have the best version of Fulcrum for your data collection projects.

9. Be sure to sync your device before leaving the office

Make sure all devices are synced before going into the field. If the mobile app hasn’t been synced, the up-to-date data collection apps you worked on won’t be in there. Remember, you can always sync in the field if you are don’t mind using your data plan to do so.

10. Test your app before it matters

Before deploying Fulcrum in the field, you should thoroughly test your app to be sure that everything flows smoothly. You don’t want to run into problems while data collectors are already out in the field! Often in your test run, you will think of convenient tweaks and other changes to make your app even more effective. You may even notice fields or choices that you forgot about while making the app.

11. Bonus tip: We’re always here to help!

You can email us, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ anytime.

Keep it in mind that you don’t always need to use all of these tips and features to have a great app. Since everything is up to you when creating your apps, not every aspect is always going to be relevant to your specific use case. Do you have any tips for other Fulcrum users? We would love to hear them!

About the author

Andie is a geographer at Spatial Networks, working on analytics and GIS projects. Also a self proclaimed ‘tea snob’ in an office full of coffee drinkers.

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