How Online Forms and Automated Workflows Help with Market Research

Thursday, April 18th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Smaller and newer businesses may not have the resources necessary to contract out market research, or to use the more expensive market research tools designed for big enterprises.

Young marketers on floor

Regardless of your budget or company size, you benefit from regular market research.

However, they can use online forms and automated workflows to organize and manage their in-house market research efforts and gain valuable insights.

Ongoing market research is essential in a constantly evolving marketplace. When you conduct regular market research and analyze the data you collect, you can:

  • Create more compelling marketing collateral
  • Discover targeted niches interested in your products and services
  • Develop new products and services based on customer “pain points”
  • Recognize developing industry trends so you can act promptly

Here are just a few of the ways you can use online forms and automated workflows to improve your market research efforts.

Organize and Understand Data from Surveys and Landing Pages

Does your form software support web forms? It should, because web forms allow you to collect valuable information from the very people who are interested in the products and services your business offers. Not only can you create landing page forms that improve conversion rates, you can create on-site surveys and then funnel the data from them to databases and spreadsheets for analysis. 

Your form software should be easy enough to use that you can do A/B testing of landing page forms to find out exactly what combination of elements results in the highest conversion rates. If your form software is difficult to use or has a steep learning curve, you may not bother with A/B testing, and could end up missing out on key insights.

Create Forms for Combing Through Secondary Market Research Sites

Many companies do market research by combing existing web resources like Facebook groups, Quora, reddit, and even Amazon book reviews. Forms and workflows can organize these efforts and help ensure that nothing of value is missed. You could, for example, create a form that your market researcher can use to record key URLs, assign a topic to the research, record keywords, and jot down sentiments expressed in user posts. 

Colorful word cloud

Plugging text from online reviews into a word cloud generator
can give clues as to what’s important to your customer base.

Your researcher could run the text from a relevant Facebook group through a word cloud program and identify words that show up prominently. These words could be entered into a market research form for follow-up, to help understand customer problems and sentiment more clearly.

Integrate with Databases, Spreadsheets, and Salesforce

Online forms and automated workflows that integrate form data with other office systems like databases, spreadsheets, and CRM systems (like Salesforce) help ensure that you gain a comprehensive, 360-degree view of your customer personas. Forms themselves can offer insights, but when you multiply those insights many-fold and feed critical form data (such as form users’ age, sex, or geographic area) into a spreadsheet, suddenly you can process that data to learn far more.

Does your form software integrate easily with commonly used office tools like spreadsheets and databases? If not, you could be unnecessarily limiting the insights your forms could be delivering, and inadvertently hindering your market research.

Online forms and workflows are flexible, multi-purpose business tools. Your form and workflow software should make these tools as easy as possible to use, whether for market research or any other business process. PerfectForms is online form and workflow software that offers an intuitive, user-friendly interface, so you can climb the learning curve in no time.

It also supports web forms and integrates with office software like the spreadsheets and databases you use every day, and even Salesforce CRM. Give your team the tools they need to get the most from market research. Not only will the market research be more efficient and thorough, you can develop insights that you might never have discovered otherwise. If you would like to know more, PerfectForms invites you to watch our demo video. 

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Productivity & Efficiency: The Right Workflow Software Improves Both

Thursday, April 4th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Business success depends on both productivity and efficiency. 

Productivity knob

Using the right workflow software is like setting productivity and efficiency to “MAX.”

The two concepts are similar and are sometimes confused for one another, but they’re not the same. Productivity is about output during a defined time period. Say that last week you produced 100 units of work, but this week you produced 110. That means your productivity went up by 10%.

Efficiency is more related to the quality of your work or work processes. If you produce the same number of units in the same amount of time, yet do so with less waste, or at a lower cost, you improve efficiency. Both higher efficiency and higher productivity lead to higher profits. 

Strong workflows are the key to both higher efficiency and greater productivity, and when you can automate some or all of a workflow, you can make a tremendous difference in both. Here’s how.

Productivity and How Workflows Help

Let’s say your business produces handmade furniture. The more pieces you complete, the more you can sell and the more money you can make. Production may involve preparing the pieces that will make up a table or chair, finishing wood surfaces, upholstering seats, and so on. All these steps make up a workflow, and the more efficient the workflow, the more quickly you’ll go from raw materials to finished product.

Automated, mobile-friendly workflows can be designed so that the moment the wood finisher or upholsterer’s services are needed, they receive a notification. That way they know to begin as soon as possible and there is less risk of steps being missed or delayed. Ultimately, productivity goes up.

Efficiency and How Workflows Help

Suppose you are the head administrator at a school. School administration naturally involves a lot of forms: for registration, field trip permissions, equipment requisitions, and so on. All these processes used to have to be done on paper, but now all of them can be done through online forms and automated workflows. 

Young student using a tablet

Students have no trouble ditching paper. Shouldn’t their teachers and administrators try to do likewise?

Imagine what happens when registration forms go online. Not only are there no more worries about illegible or damaged paper forms, massive amounts of paper can be saved. That alone represents efficiency, but so does the time saved from manually sorting, filing, and handling forms. Efficiency can increase impressively from the conversion of a single, paper-heavy process to an online workflow.

Demand These Features in Your Workflow Software

You have many choices in workflow software. Some products are geared toward large enterprises, while others are designed for small and medium businesses. When evaluating your workflow software choices, be sure to insist on the following features, whatever the size of your organization:

  • Intuitive, user-friendly interface
  • No programming required
  • Automated alerts and notifications
  • Permission-based access controls
  • Integration with commonly used office systems like spreadsheets
  • Easy creation of workflow reports

Many businesses today choose cloud-hosted workflow software, and this is a great choice in terms of scalability and reliability. However, if you have to run software on your own servers, choose workflow software that gives you this option.

PerfectForms is workflow software designed to improve both productivity and efficiency. Because of its intuitive user interface, learning to use PerfectForms is fast and easy: you simply drop form or workflow elements into place. You can also easily set workflow permissions, create automated alerts, and integrate PerfectForms with your spreadsheets, databases, web forms and with Salesforce CRM. 

If you’re ready to improve productivity and efficiency through better, faster work processes, we encourage you to read some of the many PerfectForms case studies . See how businesses and organizations like yours used the power of automated workflows to boost productivity and efficiency while reducing error rates and tracking business data and trends with ease.

Does Your Form Creation Software Have All the Features You Need?

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

If you need to create the occasional one-off form, there are any number of free online resources that will help you do that.

Puzzled girl with a laptop

It’s probably smart to be wary of free software you find on the internet.

But if online forms are a regular part of your business workflows, then you need more in a form software solution. You may ask yourself why you should pay for form creation software when you can make forms for free using Google Docs, but the fact is, outstanding form software can deliver impressive ROI through its productivity- and efficiency-boosting features.

Many if not most forms are workflow elements. In other words, completion of the form is an essential step in getting a work process completed. What if those forms were part of an overall workflow solution rather than just one-off forms users have to access through Google or some other provider?

Look for the following features in your form creation software and you can not only have the forms you want, but also streamline workflows and improve the efficiency and productivity of your business. 

You Shouldn’t Have to Program

You might find form creation software that allows powerful custom form creation for an enticingly low price. Then, when you try to learn how to use it, you may be surprised to learn that creating those forms requires HTML, PHP, CSS, or JS scripting and that neither you nor anyone else in your business knows how to do that.

You could probably learn enough HTML to get by, but that’s not a good use of your time. Form creation software is supposed to make running your business easier, not harder. When evaluating form software options, be certain that the package you choose doesn’t require coding.

Think About Features You Want Over the Long Term

Today you want a simple online form so new customers can register for sale updates and special events. Tomorrow, however, you may want other online forms. Maybe you will want to start using employee-facing forms for business processes like scheduling paid time off or requesting reimbursement for expenses. 

Maybe someday you’ll want forms for recording software license information so you don’t run the risk of violating software licenses. Not only could such forms prevent illegal software use, they could protect you in the event of a software license audit. 

Audit stamp

Data collection and reporting features of premium form creation software
can save a tremendous amount of stress in the event of an audit.

As your business grows, you may want online forms for faster and more accurate onboarding of new employees. Maybe you’ll want your field representatives to have forms on their tablets so they can record service calls in the field. The possibilities are limitless, and it’s important to take a long view when choosing form creation software.

Form Software Can Deliver ROI in Multiple Ways

One of the main ways form creation software delivers ROI is by drastic reduction of resource use. Do away with paper and you do away with paper storage, archival, and recycling needs. It also does away with the need to manually enter information from paper forms into associated databases and spreadsheets. Furthermore, online forms can be connected to create simple to complex workflows, ensuring processes stay on track, with no missed steps. Can a free online form maker do all that? It’s highly unlikely.

Think of form creation software as a business investment. If you choose the cheapest (or free) option up front, you might save money right now, but you won’t have access to the features that will save your company significantly over the long term.

PerfectForms is form creation software that can be used to create the simplest of online forms to the most complex automated workflows. You can create mobile-friendly online forms from scratch or start with one of the many included templates. And you won’t have to write a single line of programming code, because PerfectForms has an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface. 

PerfectForms allows form and workflow permissions, automated alerts to keep workflows moving swiftly, and powerful data collection and reporting features so you can track trends with ease. And it interfaces easily with spreadsheets, databases, and other office systems, including Salesforce CRM. Read some of our case studies and you’ll see what a smart investment you make when you choose the right form creation software.

Online Forms: Create, Deploy, Report & Integrate on Your Time Scale

Thursday, March 28th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Everyone knows that online forms are better in every way compared to paper forms.

Sad woman with lots of paperwork

Learn to do this electronically and you can save time, money, and physical resources.

You have many options for creating online forms, and some of the office software packages you already use may allow basic form creation.

But extracting the most value from online forms requires more than just shoe-horning your form into a word processing program and hoping for the best. At the same time, you don’t want to have to hire a programmer to create custom forms that collect and process data the way you need. That can take significant time and money.

What you need is a comprehensive online form and workflow solution that doesn’t require programming, yet empowers you to extract maximum value from your online forms.

Create Forms That Do Exactly What You Want

Templates for online forms can be great starting points, but sometimes you have to create a form that is unique. For this you need form software with an intuitive user interface that lets non-technical users nonetheless create powerful, functional, fully-customized forms. Only then can you collect the data you need easily, route and process the data properly, and gain the most value from the data while saving time and physical resources like paper.

Deploy Forms on a Tight Time Scale

Who has time to wait six months for customized forms to be created by a programmer? Sometimes you need online forms right away. Other times you need customized online forms, but only for a short time period (such as in association with a one-time event). Form software isn’t doing its job unless it enables you to create the forms you need when you need them, to test them quickly, and then deploy them in a timely manner.

Businessman pointing at a watch

Your form software should save time, not waste time.

Report on the Data Gathered by Your Forms

Not all forms require reporting, but almost all processes that require forms can benefit from gathering, analyzing, and reporting on the data they collect. Maybe your job is to accept citizen applications for tree seedlings in coordination with a city-wide Earth Day celebration. The primary purpose of your forms is to connect the seedlings with the right people. But what if your form software could collect the data, organize it by neighborhood, and show you exactly which neighborhoods participate most, and which seedlings are most popular? Suddenly you have data that can help you make next year’s event even better!

Integrate with Other Systems to Extract More Value

Integrating forms with each other and with other office systems is the basis of countless automated workflows. Integration means that data entered on a contact form online automatically goes into your Salesforce CRM. It can also mean that order data is automatically routed to databases that help you forecast demand and meet customer needs better. Can your form software do this? If not, it’s time to take another look at the possibilities.

PerfectForms is online form software and workflow software in one. Without writing a single line of code, you can create pixel-perfect online forms exactly to your specifications. Not only that, you can test and deploy them quickly, and integrate them into sleek automated workflows. Along the way, you can collect data for reporting purposes, and route data collected into your CRM, databases, spreadsheets, and other office systems. In other words, you can extract every last drop of value from the data your forms collect.

Are you interested in learning more? Watch the demo video or look through our case studies to see the many ways PerfectForms transforms business processes for the better. 

Don’t Forget the ‘Three P’s’ When Upgrading Workflow Technology

Friday, March 22nd, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when it’s time to upgrade workflow technology.

Cars in a tunnel

Don’t let tunnel vision over technology upgrades blind you
to the people, products and processes they’re designed to help.

For example, if your network is too slow, you want to upgrade it so it’s fast enough and has sufficient bandwidth that it won’t bog down. If it’s time to replace the additive technology machines you bought a couple of years back, you will naturally focus on the specifications for the latest systems you’ll be investing in.

It’s essential, however, that you never lose sight of the so-called three P’s (people, product, and process) as your business grows and evolves. Think of it this way. If you have a shrubbery in your yard with a single branch that’s thriving and growing while the rest of the plant just hangs on, it’s time to focus on the entire system from soil and roots to moisture, sunlight, and maintenance. Likewise, when growing your business, you must never lose sight of the fundamentals, and the three P’s are as fundamental as it gets.

People

Suppose you learn about a new piece of technology at a trade show that is the best, fastest, and most reliable in its class. Maybe you want to put that piece of technology to work in your business. But you shouldn’t make the decision before understanding how it would affect the people who would work with it. 

Maybe upgrading your technology is the right choice, and maybe waiting a while is the right choice. Either way, you can’t expect technology to solve every problem, and you have to invest in your people as well, so they will be trained and ready for new technologies. Otherwise, results will include frustration, and drop-offs in productivity that will have to be addressed.

Product

When you make changes to technology or the processes that use them, you have to ask how they will affect your primary product, whether it’s window blinds or financial reports. Will you take on production of new products? Upgrade existing ones? Can your workflows cope with either of these eventualities?

Once you upgrade, say, your network or production equipment, how will productivity change? How might workflows need to change to accommodate technology upgrades? Can you modify workflows without major upheaval?

Workers in a small factory

Could back-office technology changes affect actual production? Could changes to automated workflows help?

Process

Technology upgrades and process changes go hand in hand a lot of the time. Processes have to evolve as businesses grow and change, and planning for process changes is essential for those changes to be as smooth and uneventful as possible. 

Automated workflows may be dedicated to a single process, or to multiple sub-processes, and your workflow software can make all the difference in how well you are able to adapt processes and workflows to changing needs.

Ultimately, technology should bring people together rather than drive them apart. Your workflow software can make a measurable difference in how well upgrades and new technologies integrate themselves into daily business. 

Workflow software that allows change based on end-user feedback helps with managing changes, as do checks and balances that ensure workflow participants act when their input is needed. The best automated workflows are designed so the right people enter the workflow at the right time, have the tools they need to do their part, and pass along the process to the next participants with maximum efficiency. In other words, they bring the three P’s together seamlessly.

PerfectForms is workflow software that takes the friction and inefficiency out of the processes your business uses every day. No programming is required, so workflow users can have more influence over how workflows are designed and managed. And when technology affecting one part of a workflow changes, the workflow can easily be modified to accommodate it. 

Never lose sight of the three P’s of successful business operation, and make sure your workflow software works with, and not against you as you align the three P’s to make your business thrive. PerfectForms encourages you to watch our demo video and see how the right workflow software has your back, helping you optimize processes, put your team’s talent to its best use, and connect the right people with your products.

Electronic Checklist: A Great Starting Point for Workflow Software

Thursday, March 21st, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Few tools help more people maintain more motivation to reach goals than the simple checklist.

Mechanic with checklist

The humble checklist is responsible for accomplishment of many goals.
Electronic checklists do away with the need for pen and paper, and keep records automatically.

While big goals are necessary, they can feel overwhelming at times. Checklists help us break down the tasks that get us closer to our big goals and check off our progress as we go. In fact, the simple act of checking things off a checklist activates the “reward” system in the brain, causing a quick burst of dopamine. In other words, it feels good to check things off a checklist. Psychologists recommend people use them in daily life partly for this reason.

Paper checklists have served people for ages, but electronic checklists are better, especially now that we carry mobile devices around all the time. In fact, the electronic checklist can be an excellent first use of workflow software.

Checklists Customized to Different Business Roles

Rare is the business role that isn’t improved by the electronic checklist. Some of the most common types of checklists used in businesses include:

  • To-do lists, which can be customized to each individual
  • Task checklists that break down a process step by step
  • Troubleshooting checklists
  • Coordination checklists (that are used by multiple people)
  • “Discipline” checklists that help people avoid making decisions before due consideration

Having electronic checklists on a phone or tablet is ideal, because it’s paper- and pencil-free, so fewer physical resources are needed, and the lists won’t be lost. And electronic checklists can have features built in that enhance productivity.

Checklist Features that Aid Productivity

With the right workflow software, you can create custom, mobile-friendly electronic checklists with productivity-enhancing features. For example, if steps on a checklist should be done in a particular order (as is often the case with a troubleshooting checklist), if a user skips a step, the checklist can instantly deliver a pop-up notification stating that a “prerequisite” step was not checked off.

Bicycle messenger with table

Notifications and alerts make electronic checklists more useful and ensure processes are completed in full.

If completion of one person’s checklist indicates that some other person’s action or input is needed, the electronic checklist can send a notification to that person that the process is ready for their input. And electronic checklists can be made to collect data for later perusal or reporting. Someone could see, for example, that a troubleshooting checklist was completed ten times in a month for a particular piece of equipment, and decide whether it’s time to dig deeper or consider replacing the equipment.

An Excellent Introduction to Learning Workflow Software

Another great thing about the electronic checklist is that it can be an excellent introduction to workflow software. Workflow software can be put to countless uses, and at first, the endless possibilities can seem daunting. However, when people go through training on workflow software, developing an electronic checklist complete with data collection and notifications can be an outstanding first project for software users to try.

The great thing about good workflow software is that once a user successfully creates a workflow, they’re likely to think of other great workflows that can be developed. Creating an electronic checklist can be the perfect springboard to development of other useful workflows.

The quality of electronic checklists depends in part on the quality of the workflow software you use. PerfectForms is workflow software with a user-friendly interface and no programming. Users simply drag and drop form or workflow elements into place, so it’s easy to experiment and go from idea to execution quickly.

Electronic checklists can be amazingly useful, but you will soon want to use PerfectForms for countless other types of workflows, such as workflows for onboarding new employees and workflows for submitting expenses for reimbursement. We encourage you to browse some of our many case studies to see how flexible and powerful PerfectForms is. You’re sure to use it for electronic checklists and innumerable other important business processes. 

Does Your Workflow Software Support Outstanding Workflow Management?

Friday, March 15th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

A workflow is a sequence of steps through which work passes as it goes from initiation to conclusion. Automated workflows are those where some or all of those steps are automated. 

Woman viewing a flowchart

Going from concept to well-executed business process requires outstanding workflow software.

If the purpose of a workflow is to achieve a result or complete some process, then the purpose of workflow management is to achieve better results, often by managing the “people” part of the workflow. For example, in a complex workflow, some people’s tasks may be done in parallel rather than in sequence, because they don’t affect each other. This can accelerate completion of the overall workflow. Excellent workflow management depends upon excellent workflow software.

Workflow Software Should Allow Visualization of Workflows

In the early days of automated workflows, the only way to visualize a workflow was through a flowchart or other diagram, or by reading through computer code if you could understand it. Today, you should expect a clean, intuitive interface from workflow software, so that you can visualize a workflow in its entirety and component by component.

Being able to visualize a workflow lets you see where things may be done better in another order, or where steps that don’t affect each other can be done in parallel rather than in sequence. It’s hard to manage a workflow that you can’t envision.

Conveniences in Automated Workflows Can Improve Workflow Management

Workflow software includes form builders, because forms are a critical part of most workflows. The right workflow software will allow you to build conveniences right into the forms to promote better workflow management. For example, pre-filling of certain form fields can save considerable time. Suppose the workflow created for the hiring process includes numerous forms that require the job candidate’s name and contact information. Once the first form of the process is completed, subsequent forms can pre-fill name and contact information fields automatically, so there’s no duplication of effort. 

Other conveniences in automated workflows include automatic notifications to personnel whose input is required, automatically date- and time-stamping steps as they are completed, and saving data from the workflow for future reporting purposes. 

Reporting viewed on a laptop

Reports using data collected by a workflow help with continuous workflow improvement.

Reporting Is an Underappreciated Component of Good Workflow Management

To improve a workflow, you have to know how well each workflow component performs, and reporting features allow you to do this with ease. You could, for example, record time to completion for a workflow and examine how that data trends over time. Then, should you choose to modify the workflow, you could compare time to completion for the modified workflow to that of the original workflow. 

Workflow software should include powerful, easy-to-use reporting features so you can collect and analyze workflow data. The reports generated can help you envision ways to improve the workflow, and can guide you when you create new workflows. It’s an excellent method for keeping good workflow management high on the priority list.

Workflow management requires understanding automated workflows inside and out, and you can’t do this without the right workflow software. PerfectForms is workflow software with an intuitive, drag-and-drop user interface that allows workflow creators to drag and drop elements into place. Visualizing the entire workflow, and different components of the workflow is a snap.

Additionally, the form-building tools PerfectForms offers allow users to include workflow accelerators like pre-filled form fields, and checks and balances that ensure that the correct data is always entered into forms before they are submitted. And PerfectForms offers powerful reporting features that let you track and manage workflows so you can improve them in ways that make a real difference. Why not test drive PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial? Workflow management is a strong competitive differentiator, and PerfectForms equips you to manage workflows with skill and ease.

How Automated Workflows Help Manage ‘Living’ Data

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

It’s easy to think of the data you collect as static and permanent. But much of the data businesses use is in constant flux.

Engineer collecting data

Your online forms and workflows can go a long way toward ensuring your business operates only with the highest quality data.

For example, the contact information for a client may change. If you fail to note this change, you needlessly slow down the business process, and risk losing the client altogether. But managing living data is more than just getting rid of old data and replacing it with new data. Occasionally, for instance, you may end up with a new version of a document that is inferior to an older version, and being able to revert back is essential. Automated workflows can help you manage the “living” data your business encounters every day. Here’s how.

Excellence in Online Forms Aids Quality Assurance

So-called “dirty” data is data that is inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise erroneous. The online forms you use to collect data can make a measurable difference in the quality of data collected. When online forms have built-in checks and balances to ensure that numbers go in number fields, that figures fall within accepted ranges, and the like, you maximize the chances of collecting (and ultimately using) “clean” and accurate data. 

Suppose some scientific value measured in a laboratory always falls within the range from zero to one. Online forms requiring this data can set a rule rejecting values that fall outside this range. Then, if someone should inadvertently try to enter a value like 1.5, the form can pop up an error message immediately so the value can be corrected before proceeding. The result? Cleaner data.

Version Tracking Prevents Confusion, Allows Reversion

Collaboration is a wonderful thing in the modern workplace, but it requires management. If multiple people collaborate to author a report, it’s essential that everyone use the same document version at all times. 

Automated workflows can be designed to ensure that this happens without fail. A workflow “owner” can create a new document version either as needed or at prescribed time intervals, numbering and archiving older document versions as updates occur. Not only does it help ensure that all collaborators are on the same page (literally and figuratively), but if a new document version has too many errors or problems, it’s easy to revert back to an earlier version and regroup.

Men collaborating

Collaboration works best when workflows ensure everyone is working with the right version of a document or other data set.

Mobility Assists with Real-Time Data Capture

Online forms for data capture are far more useful when they are mobile-friendly. Companies that use field technicians, or where employees capture other data outside the office benefit tremendously from mobile-friendly online forms. 

The forms themselves can include necessary checks and balances to ensure only correct data is entered, and automated workflows can archive older form versions automatically. This type of form and workflow interaction is also tremendously valuable for creating reports, especially when the reports track data points over time.  

“Dirty” data is a real problem for business, and data must be managed, cleaned, and updated regularly for business to proceed at its fastest pace and to achieve its best results. How a business designs online forms and automated workflows can go a long way toward ensuring that the data the business uses every day is as accurate, current, and complete as possible.

PerfectForms is workflow software that makes it easy to create customized, mobile-friendly online forms and automated workflows with all the backstops, checks, and balances necessary to capture clean data and manage it skillfully. 

Designing online forms and automated workflows is easy because of PerfectForms’ intuitive drag-and-drop interface, and building in rules, alerts, and instant error messages is easy as well. If you’re interested in the solution that not only powers efficiency and accuracy, but also helps ensure your data collection and management efforts pay off, please contact us at any time. We would be delighted to talk with you about the best ways to collect and manage the data your business relies on.

Add These Checks and Balances to Optimize Online Forms

Friday, March 8th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Errors in online forms are inevitable, but there are several things you can do to ensure those errors are corrected before the form is submitted.

Online forms with mistakes waste time, but you can prevent many mistakes with simple design constraints.

Excellent form design is perhaps the most important way to minimize errors in online forms. Forms should be pleasing to the eye, have plenty of white space, and be kept to the minimum number of fields necessary to collect the information you want. Cut out any questions that are not strictly necessary, particularly with customer-facing forms. Shorter forms tend to get more conversions than longer ones. 

Beyond that, you can add a number of checks and balances to your online forms that can cut down on the number of errors that make it through. Here are a handful of tips that are tried and true.

Use Color-Coded Fields for Mandatory Information

Researchers in Switzerland actually studied which works better to designate mandatory fields in online forms: asterisks or color-coding the mandatory fields. Color-coding worked better. It made mandatory fields easier to identify at first glance, and made it easier to see what proportion of total form fields were mandatory. The study reported that color-coded mandatory fields resulted in fewer errors, faster form completion, and greater user satisfaction. 

Suggest Default Entries for Fields That Rarely Vary

There will be form fields that are almost always completed with the exact same information. For example, if 90% of your organization consists of engineers, a form asking for “job title” will most likely be completed with “engineer,” so you can have that as a default in a drop-down menu to make form completion faster. 

Likewise, a form that is almost always filled out by people in your Chicago branch can have a default “location” field pre-filled with “Chicago” (but with the ability to be overwritten by the form user). Even the fastest typists appreciate getting to skip fields in online forms, and you can avoid a lot of errors this way.

Default field info that minimizes typing for form users? Yes, please!

Impose Constraints that Prevent Erroneous Data Entry

Suppose someone is filling out a form requesting paid time off next summer. Just as airlines and hotels do, you can impose constraints that won’t let them, for example, erroneously enter a return date that’s before the departure date.

Likewise, if the value of a certain field always falls within a specified range of numbers, you can make that form field reject any numbers that fall outside that range. A field that must include numbers can be designed to reject text typed into it. These seemingly small constraints can prevent plenty of errors.

Use Inline Validation to Allow for Quick Error Correction

Have you ever completed an online form and clicked “Submit” only to receive a pop-up box telling you there were half a dozen errors that must be corrected before the form would go through? It’s incredibly frustrating, and even if the pop-up box tells you what the errors are, it’s not that helpful, because you have to go back to the form and find all of them, presumably after you’ve closed the pop-up box!

Enabling form users to correct information as they go is far preferable. Say someone enters an email address and mis-types # for @. A message that pops up immediately next to the form field allows them to correct the mistake quickly and move on. Forms will arrive with fewer errors, and form users will experience far less frustration.

The right form software is essential for designing forms that are error- and frustration-free. PerfectForms allows you to create customized forms using the many templates that come with the software, or from scratch with an intuitive interface that allows you to drag and drop form elements into place. 

PerfectForms also allows you to add checks and balances that ensure a frustration-free experience for users while ensuring that the information entered is correct. Watch our demo video and see how easy it can be to create the custom online forms that will help your business operate more efficiently.

Posted in Form Design | Comments Off on Add These Checks and Balances to Optimize Online Forms

Proof-of-Concept to Everyday Use: How Workflows Make the Transition

Thursday, March 7th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Rarely do workflows go seamlessly from concept to everyday use, because it’s impossible to foresee all possible problems at the beginning.

Staging deployment of automated workflows helps address skepticism and assure good results.

Making the transition from idea to regular use can go more smoothly if workflow design is done in stages, starting with proof of concept, proceeding to a small pilot project, followed by training, practice, and deployment. Here’s how to ensure those stages of workflow development happen with minimal problems and backtracking.

Proof of Concept

This is where you come up with a solution to a problem and determine if it’s feasible. Suppose you head a local government department and have determined that citizen requests for oversize trash pickup should be made online rather than in person, on paper, or over the phone.

During proof of concept, you should ask important questions like:

  • Can we afford the workflow software to do this?
  • How will we let people know this is the new way to make requests?
  • How much will we ultimately save in terms of time and physical resources?
  • What objections might people raise to this new way of doing things? 

Pilot Project

A pilot project for your new workflow requires that you know how to use the workflow software and have created the forms people will use online to request services. People in the office have tested out the forms to make sure they work. The people who will eventually process the forms have seen what it’s like receiving completed forms and ensuring they collect all necessary information.

At this point, your pilot project can deploy on a limited basis. Perhaps you can start with a single neighborhood, to gauge reaction and willingness of people to use it. When people in the pilot project neighborhood start actually using the new process, you can collect feedback from them on what they liked and didn’t like, and what problems, if any, they experienced. 

Information collected during the pilot project can be used to fine-tune forms and workflow to prevent bottlenecks, and to determine the best way to prioritize requests. Your pilot project gives you the opportunity to course-correct and make changes before taking the project citywide.

Pilot projects are great for listening to feedback and fine-tuning workflows.

Training and Practice

Once your pilot project has collected the data necessary to correct and fine-tune forms and the workflow itself, you still need to test the final workflow thoroughly before deploying it. Each person involved in the workflow, from clerks to dispatchers to truck drivers, must be trained in how to use it. Ideally, you can have a few practice runs to make sure everything clicks into place as it is supposed to. Only after everyone who will use the workflow has been trained are you ready to deploy your workflow for real.

Deployment

The day a new workflow goes live, make sure all lines of communication are open. That day is not a good day for the workflow designer to be out of the office. It’s wise to have a handful of people designated to switch back to the old way of doing things if there’s a major problem, but hopefully it won’t come to that. 

Once the workflow goes live, the workflow designer and key personnel should take stock after the first day, after a week, and after a month to find out if unforeseen problems or bottlenecks have emerged. This way, they can be handled before they cause major problems. When the workflow is in daily use and doing what it’s supposed to do, it’s smart to write up a report detailing project phases, problems solved, and lessons learned. This will make it easier when new automated workflows are created later on. 

The right workflow software will help you not only design automated workflows, but also take them through every stage from concept to everyday use with ease. PerfectForms, with its intuitive drag-and-drop interface, makes creation of customized online forms and automated workflows straightforward, so you can create, test, train, and deploy on an accelerated schedule. We encourage you to read through some of the many PerfectForms case studies and see the results of automated workflows in a variety of real-world scenarios.