5 Benefits of Reports in No-Code Forms and Workflows

Wednesday, July 6th, 2022 by Ricardo Otero

 

Reporting on no-code workflows and forms

Today’s enterprises run on data. Whether your organization is a financial services firm, an energy company, a university, or a healthcare system, you depend on data to understand trends, measure performance, and make decisions.

A no-code application development tool can help. An effective no-code app builder gives you capabilities to both report on and visualize the data you’ve captured in a form or survey, and to track and report on the performance of an application you’ve automated with no-code.

In fact, reporting is among the top reasons organizations are embracing no-code/low-code (NC/LC) application development, according to a TechRepublic survey. The study found that no-code tools are helping businesses automate workflows (17% of respondents), create new applications (15%), speed up development time (15%), and automate data collection and reporting (14%).

How No-code Reporting Works

A no-code app builder enables non-technical users to quickly and easily create online forms and workflow applications. Team members simply drag and drop form or workflow objects onto a virtual canvas to design a user interface, define form behaviors, map a workflow, and build reports – all without coding.

You can then use your no-code tool to create real-time reports and visualizations to analyze data and communicate insights. Simply place the reporting objects onto the canvas and identify the data sources.

The tool allows you to display a wealth of information, including bar charts, pie charts, line graphs, tables, cross-tabulations, gauges, filters, and more. You can instantly drill down into details, all the way to the field that originally collected the data.

Reports enable you to monitor the performance of your no-code workflow processes in real-time, providing complete, end-to-end visibility of the process for key stakeholders. You can also leverage reports to understand data collected through no-code forms and surveys, and summarize data across multiple forms and workflows into a single report for broader visibility. You can even integrate with databases, core systems, and statistical packages that support additional reporting options.

 No-code Reporting Advantages

The reporting capabilities in an effective no-code app builder deliver numerous business benefits:

1. Uncover trends and gain new customer and employee insights.

A no-code tool lets you create feedback forms and surveys to gather information about and input from customers or employees. You can gain new insights into employee attitudes and expectations, so you can create policies and implement programs that build engagement and boost productivity. You can also find out from customers and prospects what they’re looking for in products and services, how they view your brand, and how they’re influenced by competitors and market trends.

With no-code reports and visualizations, you can quickly home in on previously unrecognized demands or trends that help you optimize your workforce and build your business.

2. Digitize and automate routine administrative tasks.

No-code empowers you to transform paper-based, manual workloads into streamlined, digitized processes. The team members in your lines of business – the people who understand your operations best – can build their own workflows to get their jobs done faster, easier, and better.

Many of those routine tasks involve reporting and can yield significant benefits. For example, the Vasalia Unified School District in California’s San Joaquin Valley uses a no-code tool to automate a wide range of procedures – everything from substitute-teacher requests to incident reports. The district reduced labor and printing costs, improved record-keeping and reporting, and quickly achieved a positive return on investment (ROI) in no-code.

3. Maintain and demonstrate internal and regulatory compliance.

A no-code tool can allow users to digitize a portion of a workflow for an incremental improvement or encode end-to-end workflows for even greater automation. The resulting workflows can enable data capture, notifications, escalations, reporting, and more. They can even integrate with existing systems to support broader processes and ensure both efficiency and compliance.

For instance, the State of Oregon’s Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) ensures the quality of care for residents of 2,500 nursing and assisted-living facilities. The agency uses no-code to reduce errors and accelerate data capture and reporting to state and federal authorities. Reports also give users insights into trending issues, investigator workload, open cases, and more.

4. Support remote and hybrid work strategies.

No-code apps are an effective way to optimize remote work – an increasing requirement for many organizations. No-code tools deliver robust interfaces that make business applications easier to use. They assemble sophisticated workflows that automate and accelerate both internal and customer-facing processes. And they provide secure forms for fast data capture, data sharing, and reporting. These capabilities keep your employees informed and your operations moving – no matter where employees are located.

5. Sustain consistent processes across multiple departments and sites.

No-code empowers you to create electronic workflows that extend across office locations and scale to support even thousands of users. Cross-function workflows address a wide variety of scenarios, from resource requests to incident reports. You can customize workflows to reflect local practices or enforce standardized policies, and automatically centralize reports in corporate systems.

The University of Portland leverages no-code to build forms for use across campus. This enables various departments to meet their own needs for forms and reporting while ensuring consistency across the institution. No-code also supports a centralized data-collection system that both saves time and allows the university to maintain data and reporting standards. Users can manipulate and view reports on the centralized data, leading to further process improvements.

As data grows even more central to business operations and competitive advantage, reports and visualizations will empower more of your employees and business functions. A no-code tool makes reports easier and faster to create and consume – and more likely to help drive your success.

Step-by-Step Guide to Planning A No-Code Project

Friday, June 3rd, 2022 by Ricardo Otero

 

Planning out a no-code project

No-code application development tools enable non-technical employees in your lines of business (LoBs) to quickly and easily create forms, workflows and applications. By augmenting traditional development approaches, no-code app builders are empowering organizations to rapidly and cost-effectively achieve digital transformation.

In fact, “increased demand for … digital transformation has sparked the emergence of citizen developers outside of IT,” Gartner reports. Today, 41% of non-IT employees customize or build data or technology solutions, the analyst firm says.

But your citizen developers probably aren’t experienced in planning and executing application development projects. To benefit the most from no-code, follow these best-practice steps:

1. Understand business goals

Start by identifying the business benefit you want to achieve from no-code. That could be allowing internal or external customers to complete an online form. It might be streamlining a particular workflow within a team or department. Or it could be enabling a process that extends across multiple business functions. You can leverage no-code to optimize a broad range of processes, from creating new customer accounts, to handling budget requests and approvals, to integrating remote sites.

But to achieve success, you first need to be clear about your objectives. That includes establishing simple metrics, like number of workflow steps automated, speed of data inputs, or number of customers served.

2. Determine application requirements

Once you know your goals, you can identify the functionality the no-code application must provide. For instance, if you’re building a workflow, do all steps remain within a single team, or do they extend across multiple departments? If the project involves a broad process flow, you might need input from all stakeholders who will use it.

Similarly, if you’re creating an online form, should data inputs be automatically entered into corporate systems? If so, you’ll need the necessary integrations. An effective no-code tool will enable integration through APIs or web services, all without coding.

3. Select the right no-code solution

No-code app builders come in a lot of flavors. Some are complex platforms that provide “low-code” application development that requires coding knowledge. Others are only designed to create mobile apps for use on iOS or Android.

A no-code tool that’s useful for LoB employees should effectively enable web forms, web apps, mobile web apps, workflow apps, or business process management. Look for a no-code provider that can support all these use cases with either a single solution or a portfolio of targeted, easy-to-use tools.

4. Assign roles and responsibilities

No-code applications can be created by a single employee or a few employees, but if an application will be used day-to-day by an entire department, you need to be sure the citizen developers understand the requirements to deliver applications that meet the department’s needs and objectives.

In that case, consider getting multiple people involved in the application development process. Some stakeholders might have input into desired features. Others might create the actual application. Still others might try out the application and provide feedback before it’s deployed. Just be sure all participants understand how they contribute to the project’s success.

5. Manage the project

No-code tools are so easy to use, many users might approach application creation in an ad-hoc manner. But to get the results you want you’ll benefit from a more structured mindset.

Make a list of the features you identified in Step 2 and check them off as you build them into the application. Set interim milestones and final deadlines to keep the project on target. Monitor stakeholder involvement to be sure everyone’s doing their part. Your no-code project management doesn’t have to be complicated, but you need enough oversight to track your progress and keep the project moving forward.

6. Measure the results

An effective no-code app builder should give you visibility into the process you’ve created. This is where the metrics you created in Step 1 will show their value. If you’re achieving your performance goals, you know your deliberate approach to no-code development is paying off. If you’re falling short of targets, it’s time to identify ways to improve.

Go back over the application. Are form fields unclear, making it hard for users to complete the form? Are workflow outputs not giving you the data you need? Are the wrong people getting alerts for workflow reviews and approvals? If people aren’t using the application, is that because it doesn’t integrate well with other processes? Finding the root cause will point you to the solution.

7. Continually improve

The good news is that with a no-code tool, you can quickly and easily make improvements to your application. That’s valuable even if your application is performing at a high level today.

After all, business requirements evolve over time. Customers have changing demands. A new team might need to be incorporated into an existing workflow. You might replace a core system, requiring new application integrations. No-code gives you the capabilities to make these adjustments quickly and painlessly.

No-code/low-code (NCLC) will produce 70% of new applications by 2025, according to Gartner. The emergence of NCLC is nothing short of a “revolution,” Accenture says, one that will drive an “explosion of user-generated innovation.” By following these steps for planning and executing your no-code project, you can be sure your organization is benefiting from employee-driven, no-code-enabled innovation and digital transformation.

The Three “P”s Every Successful Business Needs to Manage

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022 by Ricardo Otero

Marcus Lemonis is CEO of Camping World and a serial entrepreneur. He also hosts CNBC’s reality television show “The Profit,” where he buys up stakes in small, struggling businesses and helps them turn around and succeed. He also invests his own cash in these businesses, which he selects because of his belief in them.

“Angel” investors don’t bother with businesses with weak fundamentals.

Lemonis believes that business owners are more willing to listen to a genuine investor rather than a consultant, and the fact that he actually buys a stake in businesses he helps turn around boosts business owners’ confidence and motivation.

According to Lemonis, businesses of every type succeed based on fundamentals, and if those fundamentals aren’t in place, failure is almost inevitable. But when they’re present and coupled with plain hard work, success is likely. He boils these fundamentals down to what he calls the three “P”s. Marcus Lemonis believes that the three “P”s successful businesses need to manage are People, Process, and Product.

People

Of the three “P”s, “people” are the most important. Without good people, good processes and good products only do so much. Simply put, the “right” people are effective while the “wrong” people can destroy a business. And what’s “right” for one business may not be for another. Furthermore, you can’t just look at someone’s résumé or college transcripts and tell that he or she is the right person. Sure, you can judge qualifications, but effectiveness is something businesses will pick up on (or not) in person, when they interview a job candidate interview and see how he or she interacts.

Process

How well does a business develop and deliver the processes that make it run? Assuming a business has hired the right people, the second element necessary for success is having processes that make sense. Neither should they be needlessly complicated. Suppose you’re in the publishing business. Your product may be books, but the processes that go into turning outlines into drafts into manuscripts into proof copies have an enormous bearing on how efficient and effective creation of those books is. In most businesses, processes must adapt with the times, or the business risks being left behind by competitors.

Product

In many cases, a company’s product is a tangible item: a tool, software package, article of clothing, or food product. But sometimes the product is a service, such as tax accounting, legal advice, or cleaning services. A great product alone isn’t enough to make a business successful, but it is essential, because people simply won’t buy irrelevant or inadequate products (or services).

Great people and processes, combined with relevant, quality products are ingredients for success.

But with efficient, well-engineered processes for delivering those products or services, and a team of outstanding people to make sure it all gets done and that customers are taken care of, a great product can transform a business from struggling to thriving.

Great Tools Help You Manage All Three

Every business has people, processes, and products, and ones that succeed have tools that make managing the three “P”s better and simpler. For example, flexible, powerful software that allows for workflow and electronic form creation can affect all three. Forms and workflows for timekeeping, expense reporting, and requesting paid time off help ensure harmony among a company’s people. The same software can take needlessly complicated manual processes and automate some or all of them, saving time and money and reducing errors. Additionally, workflow software can ensure products ship correctly and that customer experiences are outstanding.

PerfectForms is workflow management software designed so non-programmers can create pixel-perfect electronic survey forms, and then connect them into sleek workflows that are fast and that can lay down an audit trail as steps are accomplished. It can help your people use more of their time on core business functions and less on administrative busy-work. PerfectForms takes clunky, manual workflows and automates them, saving everyone time and money. Finally, it can be used to ensure that products meet consistency and quality standards, are shipped correctly and on time, and that the people who buy them can enjoy outstanding customer service.

Watch the PerfectForms demo, and you’ll see how this exceptional software can improve the state of the three “P”s in your business. It’s flexible enough, powerful enough, and easy enough to use that you can be confident your people, processes, and products all do their part to ensure your company’s ongoing success.

Button Properties in Online Forms: Why They’re So Important

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Online forms typically include clickable buttons that submit the completed form or take the user to the next page of the form.

Hands using laptop and mouse

The “submit” button on your forms may be able
to accomplish more than you think.

They’re basic elements of online forms, but with the right form software, you can access button control functions that can make your forms do more and work better. When you start using online form software, be sure to read up on the types of button control it offers, because learning these properties can help you design better forms, get higher form completion rates, and make the form user experience less stressful and more enjoyable. Here are some examples of HTML form button properties.

Buttons That Acknowledge Form Completion

Buttons that submit a completed form and acknowledge that the form has been successfully submitted are perhaps the most basic types of form buttons. Have you ever completed an online form, clicked “submit,” and received no acknowledgement that anything has happened? It can be frustrating. You wonder whether all the information you entered has gone into an online “black hole” or if it’s made it to the right destination.

When designing online forms, be sure to use a “submit” button that shows a success message. Your form software should allow this by simply checking a box and entering the text you want to appear when the form has been submitted successfully. A simple, “Thank you for submitting your form” message reassures users that their time has not been wasted.

Buttons That Open a New Web Page

Buttons that open a new web page are another common type of online form, especially with customer-facing forms. Landing page forms are a prime example of forms where a “submit” button opens up a new page.

Happy woman working on a computer drinking coffee

Buttons can take your form users to the right web page as soon as they click “submit.”

Your form software should allow you to choose button properties that redirect to a specific URL and open that web page after the form user clicks “submit.” Depending on your form software, you may even be able to configure the buttons to direct users to different web pages based on form input. That way, people who say they’re interested in one thing on a landing page form will go to the right web page for their interests, while people who say they’re interested in something else will go to a page consistent with their interests.

Buttons That Aren’t Available to Everyone

Sometimes forms need to include buttons that are only available to certain users. This may be true for employee-based forms. For example, you may use the same timekeeping form for all employees, but employees in certain roles may be allowed to submit their timekeeping forms without having to gain approval first.

Forms designed with role-based functions can help. Suppose an employee still in their probationary period has to get approval from their manager before submitting their time data. These users can be shown a clickable button that sends their time data to their manager, who then approves or denies the data. Other employees, who are not required to get approval for their timekeeping data will see a clickable button that sends their time data directly to payroll, bypassing the approval step.

Don’t let the buttons you design for your online forms be an afterthought. Know what you need them to do and be certain your form software is capable of handling those needs. PerfectForms is form software that allows users to create pixel-perfect online forms with no programming required. It allows for a range of button properties so that your forms behave exactly as you want them to.

You can test drive PerfectForms for free by signing up for a free trial. This is a great way to learn first-hand how easy online form creation can be. And if you have any questions, PerfectForms invites you to contact us at any time. 

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How to Measure ROI for Online Forms and Automated Workflows

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Return on investment typically depends upon time being saved.

Man with coffee checking his watch

Time saved is money saved.

Suppose you’re a baker, and you invest in an oven that allows you to bake twice as many loaves of bread at one time than you can now. The baking time that you save eventually means selling more loaves of bread and recouping the cost of the new oven. After you’ve recouped costs, you continue to make money on your investment compared to what you did before the investment. That’s return on investment.

Projected ROI is often the key point in making the business case for new equipment or new software. The people who control the budget want to know that money is being spent wisely and is ultimately for the good of the organization. Therefore, making the case for a swift and impressive ROI is often the key to upgrading systems, processes, or equipment. The same is true for upgrading workflows.

Traditional Return on Investment

The classic ROI formula goes like this:

ROI = [(gain from investment – cost of investment) ÷ cost of investment] × 100

So if you’ve made an additional $1,000 after investing $800 in software, your ROI would be:

ROI = [(1,000 – 800) ÷ 800] × 100 = 25%

The key is measuring how much more you’re earning now that you’ve made the investment, and it’s not always in dollars and cents. So if you invested in online form software and recouped the cost of the software through employee time savings and continue to save an additional 20 hours per week due to the software, you can translate that into money based on those employees’ wages.

Employee Efficiency Gains

Efficiency gains are often the main benefits of online forms and automated workflows. In other words, if you invest in form and workflow software and a process that used to take three days now takes only one day, that’s a major efficiency gain. It may mean you don’t have to hire an extra person, or you don’t have to worry about paying overtime, and it really adds up in the long term.

Team high five

Efficiency gains can save on overtime and may mean you don’t have to increase staff.

Other savings come from avoiding the cost of paper and ink, as well as avoiding time spent collecting, sorting, filing, and archiving all that paper. If you tracked error rates for manual processes and online forms, you can also assign value to error reduction, which is another great benefit of online forms and automated workflows.

Business Productivity

Higher productivity means making more product in the same amount of time. So if you make custom furniture and your woodworkers can’t begin a new project until they receive a paper form detailing the specifications of the piece of furniture they need to make, that’s time wasted.

If, however, orders are placed through online forms, which are automatically routed to any approving authorities as well as the woodworkers’ mobile devices, they can get to work more quickly, and there’s less downtime between projects. If it means they’re able to make one or two more pieces of furniture in a month, that’s higher productivity and higher revenues.

If you implement online forms and automated workflows, there are several ways you can measure ROI. Most of them have to do with time saved, greater efficiency, and greater productivity. And if you use outstanding workflow software like PerfectForms, you can set up workflows to automatically collect data and produce reports that clearly show where time savings occur and how productivity increases.

One of the best features of PerfectForms is its intuitive user interface, which allows creation of fully customized online forms and automated workflows without any programming. This means that form and workflow users can help with form and workflow design. And these are the people who are best positioned to know where bottlenecks are most likely and how to avoid them.

We encourage you to watch the PerfectForms demo video to see how easy it is to create your own custom forms and workflows, across departments, and across industries. And if you have any questions, we encourage you to contact us at any time.

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Online Forms: Why Field Labels Are More Important Than You Think

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Online forms are information gathering tools. Poorly designed forms make the process harder than it has to be, but well-designed forms help information flow freely.

Happy woman using a laptop while lying on the floor.

Great online forms help the flow of information.

Think of the online forms you create as a two-way conversation between the form and the user. The clearer and more concise the form side of the “conversation” is, the more pleasant and productive the experience is for the user.

As important as it is to make the form the optimum length and to use it to ask for the exact information you need, equally important is how easy your form is to complete.

Great Form Functionality Is as Essential as Form Content

Companies may spend significant time determining the best length for a form, and the best information to require. But if the form is visually confusing or cluttered, potential form users may decide they don’t want to bother, or they may abandon their effort before they’re done.

Field labels must be located in close proximity to the field where the user inputs information, and there must be no question about which label goes with which blank field. Think about a form where field labels are placed on top of blank fields. It’s in close proximity to it’s assigned blank, but if the user partially completes the form and then leaves for a few minutes, they could be confused when they return. Does “City” correspond to the blank above or below the label?

It’s usually clearest when field labels are to the left of their blanks, in close proximity. In fact, this is a preferred layout for forms on mobile devices, where a single-column format is easiest to navigate.

Inline Field Labels May or May Not Be Best

Some form designers put field instructions inside the blank field itself. Then, when the user starts typing, the instructions automatically disappear. But this may not always be the best way to ensure form fields are completed correctly.

Confused boy on the phone.

Inline field labels aren’t always the best choice.

For one thing, these labels can by tiny and hard to read, especially if someone is completing the form on a smartphone. And erroneous typing in a blank also makes the prompt disappear, so a user may not know right away they have made a mistake. Field prompts outside of the blanks rather than inline ensure the instructions for each blank are always visible.

Avoid Acronyms and Other Confusing Prompts

Do you remember the first time you entered credit card information into a web shopping site and encountered a blank for “CVV?” Most people don’t automatically know what that refers to, so e-commerce sites commonly allow you to hover over the label to pop up an explanation that CVV is the three-digit number on the back of a credit card. Wherever possible, avoid using jargon or acronyms that the form user may not know, unless you also offer optional “hover” or pop-up help.

The labels that accompany blank fields in your online forms may seem almost like an afterthought, but they shouldn’t be. Their position, readability, and clarity all make a difference in the form user’s experience, and problems with any of these can lead to form abandonment. Test forms thoroughly before deploying them, asking for feedback on form usability, and you can avoid confusing form users.

PerfectForms is form software that allows users to create fully customized online forms by simply dragging and dropping form elements into place. You can easily change fonts, colors, and layouts so that your forms look great and make the user experience as smooth and easy as possible.

PerfectForms allows you to give your attention to both the content your forms ask for as well as the labels and other visual prompts you need to serve your users best. Have a look at the demo video and see for yourself how PerfectForms helps you create the online forms that perform exactly as you need them to.

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How Defining Task Dependencies Improves Forms and Workflows

Friday, July 5th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

The foremost principle behind creating effective and efficient workflows is that complex tasks must be broken down into discrete steps.

Step by step cubes

Defining process dependencies by breaking them down into steps helps you spot
inefficiencies and envision new ways of accomplishing the steps.

It sounds easy, and in many cases it is. But what if some steps depend on the start or completion of other steps? And what if one step involves the initiation of a whole new workflow? Here’s how task dependencies work. Understanding them can help you design your forms and workflows to minimize unforeseen issues and get them into operation more quickly.

Finish to Start Dependencies

Finish to start dependencies are the most common types of task dependencies your workflow software will deal with. It means that one step or task cannot begin until the preceding task finishes. A cake makes a good analogy here. You can’t begin frosting the cake until the preceding step (baking the cake) is finished. In other words, you have to finish this to start that.

Start to Start Dependencies

With a start to start dependency, a second task doesn’t begin until the preceding task has started. That preceding task doesn’t necessarily have to finish, but it must have begun. Staying with the cake example, you may find that the most efficient workflow is to make the frosting while the cake is baking. Therefore, the baking must begin before the frosting-making begins.

Finish to Finish Dependencies

Sometimes one task cannot finish until another task finishes. The two tasks may or may not be done simultaneously. In other words, the second task may finish any time after the first task finishes. Suppose there are some finishing decorations to our cake that we can’t finish until the cake is delivered. We have a finish to finish dependency between “decorate cake” and “deliver cake.” If the “decorate cake” task is finished, then we know that the “deliver cake” task has been finished.

Start to Finish Dependencies

Person sending an email.

You can start the billing process before other tasks, but you generally
won’t send the invoice until some later step in the overall process is completed. 

Start to finish dependencies are trickier. The first task doesn’t finish until sometime after the second task starts. Say we’re making our cake to order. We start the billing process when the customer places the order. But we don’t complete the billing process until after the cake is on its way to its destination. In other words, once the “deliver cake” task begins, the earlier “bill customer” task can finish.

Here is a summary table.

Name of DependencyDefinitionExample
Finish to startStep 2 begins when step 1 concludesYou can’t frost the cake until baking the cake is done
Start to startStep 2 begins when step 1 beginsYou can make the frosting while the cake is baking
Finish to finishStep 2 can finish any time after step 1 finishesYou finish final decorations after the cake is delivered
Start to finishStep 1 doesn’t finish until sometime after step 2 startsYou initiate billing for the cake first, but don’t finish billing until delivery of the cake begins

Parent-Child Workflows

Parent-child workflow dependencies are simply when one workflow kicks off another workflow. The child workflow won’t be initiated unless the parent workflow is happening. Our start to start dependency listed above could be viewed as a parent-child workflow dependency: putting the cake in the oven to bake kicks off the workflow of making the frosting.

When you understand the relationships between steps in a process, it’s easier to time them for maximum efficiency. And when your workflow software has an intuitive user interface, dragging and dropping discrete task elements into place and testing them is easy.

PerfectForms offers just such a drag-and-drop user interface, so you can create the most efficient custom workflows without having to program. You can find out more about how it works by having a look at some of our training videos, especially “Process Planning” and “Workflow.” And if you have questions, we encourage you to contact us at any time.

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Use Radio Buttons and Check Boxes to Optimize Online Forms

Thursday, July 4th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Creating effective online forms is both an art and a science.

Man using a computer

Effective online forms must look good, and they must perform tasks flawlessly.

Form creators must gather the information they need, while avoiding overloading form users. They must make forms brief, engaging, nice looking, and easy to use if they want to get people to complete them.

One of the main reasons people abandon forms is that they’re too long or that they require more text input than is reasonable for a mobile device. And since more people fill out forms on mobile devices, it’s essential that online forms minimize typed input while looking good on the smaller screens of mobile devices.

Two ways that creators of online forms can maximize form engagement is by strategic use of radio buttons and check boxes. Here’s what they are and when they’re the right choice.

Radio Buttons: What They Are and When to Use Them

Radio buttons are selection indicators in a list of options in an online form. Before completion, they look like empty circles. When the form user selects an option, the circle is filled with a dot, and the other options are de-selected. This means that users may only choose one selection from the list.

Radio buttons make sense when you need form users to choose one and only one option from a list. They’re simple, fast, and effective, whether the user is in a desktop environment or is using a tablet or phone.

Check Boxes: When They’re the Most Appropriate Choice

Check boxes are empty squares that can be toggled to be checked or unchecked. The difference between check boxes and radio buttons is that forms with check boxes allow users to select more than one option if they want. In other words, checking one box doesn’t de-select other boxes.

Check boxes make sense when form users can provide more than one response. For example, in a survey form, you may ask users what their top three reasons for visiting your website are. Check boxes allow them to check three boxes, whereas radio buttons would limit them to only one.

Man using a phone

With radio buttons and check boxes, filling out forms on mobile devices is easier. 

Drop-Down Menus Are Good, but Radio Buttons and Check Boxes Are Better

Many online form creators use drop-down menus to help people make selections in online forms without typing. Users simply click or tap an arrow to be presented with a list of choices. And if the selection list is lengthy, then drop-down menus make sense. But in cases where the list of choices is relatively brief – say less than seven or eight choices – then radio buttons and check boxes get the same results and are easier for users to engage with.

People Like to Avoid Typing, Especially on Mobile

Strategically using radio buttons and check boxes in your online forms is great for mobile device users. Without a real keyboard, even the most accomplished mobile keyboard “swipers” can rapidly grow tired of entering text data – even with predictive text. Radio buttons and check boxes allow people to answer questions quickly and see clearly what choices they have made. They can be helpful for ensuring that form users actually complete forms and don’t abandon them in frustration.

PerfectForms allows form creators to include radio buttons, check boxes, and drop-down menus in the forms they design. These options help form creators collect and analyze the data they need while being confident that erroneous entries are kept to a minimum.

With PerfectForms’ drag-and-drop user interface, form creators can make forms look and perform exactly as they need them to for users in desktop environments or on mobile devices. And no programming is required. If you’re interested in form software that puts you in control and offers the power and flexibility you need, we invite you to watch our demo video. And if have questions, feel free to contact us at any time.

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10 Ways to Make Your Online Forms as Convenient as Possible for Users

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Forms are indispensable to online and mobile interactions. They’re a means to an end, but you’ll never get to that “end” if your online forms are poorly designed.

Man looking at his phone

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by long forms on mobile devices.

People mentally calculate their “interaction cost” when they encounter online forms. The higher the interaction cost (due to a complex, hard-to-read, or poorly designed form), the less likely users are to complete it. Keeping forms brief is essential. Beyond that, there are many steps you can take to make your online forms as convenient for users as possible. Here are 10 steps on how to make your online forms convenient for your users.

1. Help Users with Data Entry Whenever Possible

Autocomplete and auto-fill minimize the number of keystrokes form users must make. Autocomplete makes suggestions based on what the user starts typing into a field, like the first few characters of their email address. Auto-fill users browser data to fill in fields based on previously entered values.

2. Design Forms with Mobile Users in Mind

It’s better to assume that online form users will be using a mobile device rather than a desktop environment with a full-sized keyboard. When you design forms with this in mind, you’re likelier to minimize typing, keep forms brief, and take other steps to make forms convenient.

3. Keep Forms to a Single Column

When you place form fields in a single column, form users can see necessary fields more easily. Single-column forms are faster to complete, too. Multiple columns disrupt the user’s reading momentum, causing the eyes to zigzag, and slowing down form use.

4. Make Form Fields the Exact Size When Possible

When you make certain fields (like the zip code field) exactly the right size, you minimize errors and prevent user confusion. For example, a zip code field with a width of exactly five characters prevents users from wondering whether they need to type in their five-digit code, or their zip+4 code.

5. Alert Users to Errors Immediately

If a user makes an error that makes a field unusable (such as forgetting the “@” in their email address), a pop-up error that appears immediately lets them fix it and move forward. When people fill out an entire form, only to be notified of an error after they hit “submit,” they’re likelier to be frustrated enough to abandon the form altogether.

6. Radio Buttons Are Preferable to Drop-Down Menus

Happy girl with her dog

Radio buttons help people complete multiple-choice form fields with maximum speed.

Minimizing typing is important, especially for mobile users. Radio buttons and drop-down menus are two options that minimize typing. Radio buttons should be your first choice whenever possible, because they’re faster to use and less prone to mistakes. Drop-down menus can be reserved for multiple-choice questions where there are more than three or four choices.

7. Masked Input Helps with Long Number Strings

Masked input causes things like phone numbers to automatically appear in the (XXX) XXX-XXXX format when the user starts typing, making it easier to spot errors. Likewise, masked input that divides credit card numbers into chunks of four digits makes it easier for users to enter credit card information without errors.

8. Make the Correct Keypad Pop Up on Mobile

You can use HTML input types to cause the correct keyboard to pop up when a mobile user has to type in information. That way, if you need a user to enter their phone number, you can cause the number keypad to appear rather than a QWERTY keypad. This is another way to help users enter data quickly.

9. Reassure Users You Protect Their Information

People are increasingly concerned about sharing data, and they want direct reassurance that you protect their data, and that you don’t share it with all and sundry. When you include a clear, brief statement to that effect right before the user finishes, you reassure them that their time spent completing the form was worthwhile.

10. Make the “Submit” Button Obvious

Finally, make the submission button both visually obvious and descriptive. It should visually stand out from other field information, and if possible, describe what happens when they click. For example, a button that says “Create my account” is more meaningful than one that simply says “Send” or “Submit.”

The right form software is essential for designing online forms that people willingly complete. PerfectForms allows you to drag and drop custom form elements into place, and there is no programming required. Making mobile-friendly forms is easy with PerfectForms, as is adding features like pop-up error messages, radio buttons, and drop-down menus. You can try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial, or if you would rather, you can watch our demo video to see PerfectForms in action. 

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How Online Forms Benefit Local Law Enforcement Services

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019 by PerfectForms Editors

Police departments depend on forms for countless processes.

Woman police officer

Circumstances dictate many police actions, but non-time sensitive issues
can be addressed with help from online forms.

Though many of the forms police officers use have been put online and made mobile to streamline police operations, forms for use by the general public may still be provided on paper. This brings the problems of paper law enforcement forms (illegibility, mistakes, incomplete information, etc.) into the system, and makes it harder for police to provide certain services.

Online forms for local residents to use for non-emergency situations can not only cut down on the use of paper and ink and the problem of disposing of them, they do away with illegibility concerns, cut down on mistakes, and get key information into the hands of police officers more quickly. Here are a few examples of online forms that benefit both law enforcement agencies and the people they serve.

Reporting Non-Emergency Crimes

Some jurisdictions have resources that are already stretched thin in response to more serious offenses like burglary, robbery, and violent crime. Yet non-emergency crimes, such as non-destructive acts of vandalism happen too, and they affect community morale. Online forms for reporting non-emergency crimes can keep police phone lines clear and ensure that incidents are reported and addressed as quickly as possible.

Citizen Request Forms

When concerned citizens notice an uptick of crime in their neighborhood, they may call their local police and count on the message being passed along to patrol officers. But police business is unpredictable, so it’s easy for such reports to get lost when something more urgent comes along. Online citizen request forms for extra neighborhood patrols eliminate many points of failure for such reporting and can be forwarded to patrol officers with no paper necessary.

Vacation House Check

Some communities offer the service of house checks while people are on vacation. Police officers will drive by a house on a regular basis while the owners are away to check for any irregularities or signs of a break-in. This too is an ideal service for using online forms. Vacationers can complete forms at their convenience without a call or visit to the police station, and the information in the forms can be shared easily with patrol units.

Police in fancy neighborhood

In some communities, police patrols will drive by specific addresses to monitor
for suspicious activity while homeowners are on vacation.

Reporting Abandoned Vehicles

Many communities have ordinances against abandoned vehicles, yet police frequently have higher priority problems to attend to. That’s why online forms for reporting abandoned vehicles make so much sense. These forms could even be designed so that users can take a photograph of the vehicle or its plates and attach it so that police know exactly what to look for. This makes it easy for law enforcement to deal with abandoned vehicles when they have room in their schedule, while having the pertinent information right on their mobile laptops or other mobile devices.

Reporting Gasoline Theft from Service Stations

Sometimes communities have problems with people pumping gas and then driving off without paying for it. While this is a big deal to service station owners, local law enforcement often has higher priority incidents to attend to. An online form for reporting such thefts helps gas station employees report incidents right away, while details are fresh in their minds. They could also indicate on the form whether CCTV footage is available that could help police identify suspects.

Not just any form software offers the flexibility, scalability, and power necessary to provide online forms requesting non-emergency law enforcement services. PerfectForms is online form software that allows users to create perfectly tailored forms by dragging and dropping elements into place. It’s even easy to add branding elements to online forms.

Moreover, PerfectForms integrates easily with spreadsheets and other office systems, collecting data from every form and routing it as needed. And it has built-in reporting features that allow law enforcement agencies, businesses, and other organizations to make sense of the data their forms collect. Did you know you can try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial? Why not give it a try? And if you have questions, we encourage you to contact us at any time.

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