How Automated Workflows Make Change Orders Easier

Friday, October 19th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Automated workflows

automated workflows for change orders can be designed to ensure that every box is checked, every “t” is crossed and every “i” is dotted, so there is far less ground for dispute once the change order is completed.

Change orders are written agreements between an owner and a contractor for changes to the original contract.

They may broaden the scope of the original contract, establish new items necessary for the change, cover changes to the basis of payment, and spell out time adjustments resulting from the change.

Typically, change orders are considered in the context of construction projects, but they can happen with other types of contracts too, like IT contracts. A typical change order has a few key elements:

  • A description of the requested change compared to the original contract
  • Itemized documentation of subcontractor costs
  • Summary of total costs of the proposed change
  • Statement of impact on project completion date
  • Statement of contractual basis for the change

Change orders are necessary to ensure that work is carried out as expected, but traditional change orders can be problematic for several reasons.

Why Change Orders Can Be So Contentious

Usually the first and foremost effect a contractor experiences when faced with a change order is impact to the timeline and budget of the project. Sometimes, there is disagreement between the contractor and the contract originator about the need for additional payment after a change order. Problems can also arise when contractors worry they won’t get paid for extra work, or when owners think that contractors should have know about unexpected items or unknown conditions and factored it into their bid price.

Many of these problems can be prevented before original proposals are submitted, through pre-bid inspections and walk-throughs. Original contracts can also specify the steps required before change orders can be authorized.

How an Automated Change Order Workflow Can Help

Paper-based change order are not sufficient to today’s needs. Automated workflows for change orders eliminate worries over lost or illegible forms. Moreover, an automated workflow for a change order automatically routes completed forms in the process to the right people, so approvers receive requests right away, and errors are minimized.

Automated workflows

Automated change order workflows are faster, and there’s less room for misunderstanding.

Automated change orders that are mobile-friendly take usability to an even higher level. When workers don’t have to even leave the field to check on the progress of a change order, less time is wasted, and efficiency doesn’t have to suffer. Finally, automated workflows for change orders can be designed to ensure that every box is checked, every “t” is crossed and every “i” is dotted, so there is far less ground for dispute once the change order is completed.

Data Collected from Workflows Can Benefit Both Parties

A company that hires a lot of contractors can gain valuable data from automated workflows created for change orders. For one thing, they can find out how frequently change orders are initiated, and whether certain departments initiate change orders at a higher rate than others. They can learn exactly how many days, on average, are added to projects when a change order is completed, and how change orders affect budgets, down to the dollar.

Contractors that are party to change order workflows can also glean valuable data from the workflows. How many days are typically added to the length of a project compared to the dollar amount covered in the change order? How many disputes arise compared to other companies that do change orders the old-fashioned way?

Some change orders can be prevented by good planning and good communication, but they can’t be eliminated altogether. Using automated workflow software like PerfectForms to create a customized change order workflow can be one key to minimizing the impact of change orders on costs and scheduling.

PerfectForms allows creation of automated workflows through a drag-and-drop interface, and no programming is required. Steps that require approval of those higher up can be automatically routed to approving authorities, and every step of the change order workflow can be visible to authorized workflow users. The result is less confusion, fewer errors, and less time and money wasted when changes to contracts or projects are required.

We invite you to watch the demo video and learn for yourself how valuable PerfectForms can be, not only for change order workflows, but countless other business process improvements.

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How Automated Workflows Help Community or Collaborative Projects

Thursday, October 11th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Person holding a model of the earth in the palm of his hand.

Online crowdsourcing can access intelligence and expertise from all over the world.

One of the most wonderful things about the internet is the fact that it allows communities to tap into the minds and talents of many people at once – even if those people are geographically scattered.

Idea competitions and innovation contests are examples of crowdsourced projects, as is Wikipedia, the multi-lingual, web-based, free encyclopedia. Bird surveys are crowdsourced, as are more mundane projects like correcting digitized texts created by optical character recognition.

While crowdsourcing has always taken place, the web has been tremendously beneficial for the undertaking, allowing people to participate regardless of physical location, and creating digital knowledge bases that aren’t subject to the risks faced by physical archives.

Crowdsourced Projects Can Be Unwieldy; Automated Workflows Help

Starting in 1900, American ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed the Christmas Day bird count, to gather data on how many different bird species were found in the U.S. and Canada, and this bird count has taken place every year since.

As you may imagine, collecting bird count data became significantly easier and more organized with the ubiquity of internet access and smartphone technology. Now, participants can use their smartphones to enter their bird count data, and likewise, they can easily access results of previous bird counts online.

It makes sense today for crowdsourced projects to use web-based automated workflows, preferably workflows that are mobile-friendly.

Online Forms Are the Only Way to Go

A couple of years ago, a collaborative project headed by the Queens Borough Public Library and the Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives set out to collect photographs, personal histories, and other records of daily life in Queens, New York. One part of the project had teenagers from a local youth council collect community documentation and be trained in cataloging. The teens digitized photos and recorded oral histories, and then cataloged them online.

The project involved online forms, organized into an automated workflow that allowed participants to collect and upload data remotely. Had the project been done with paper forms and archival of physical documents and photographs, not only would it have taken longer and collected less data, the archival itself would have been subject to risks like items being lost or damaged.

Elderly gentleman surrounded by young men and women.

Smartphones and the web make collecting oral histories simple and straightforward.

Workflows Can Coordinate the Activities of Many People

Another community project by the organization Northeast Historic Film was designed to catalog audiovisual materials from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. This was an ambitious undertaking, considering how long ago the event happened, and the fact that audiovisual materials were all in analog form. Moreover, the people in possession of such artifacts would be scattered throughout the world. Again, the undertaking required the organization and consistency imposed by online forms and workflows, without which, the project would likely have been completely impractical.

With Fewer Worries About Organization, Projects Can Flourish

Online forms and automated workflows help lift much of the burden involved with non-digital crowdsourced projects, and this can be the case whether you’re archiving bird populations or conducting an employee-based idea competition. In other words, using online forms and workflows for crowdsourced projects is easily scalable to any size project.

With minimal training, participants can focus their efforts on the creation of ideas or collection of information, without dreading the time that would have been spent in pre-internet days dealing with paper forms and manual workflows. Whether your goal is to gather participants for a community work day or archive artifacts scattered all over the world, crowdsourcing through the use of online forms and automated workflows is the most efficient and productive approach.

With software like PerfectForms, you have the power to create customized online forms and workflows, with the flexibility to tailor them to your exact needs. PerfectForms has a long history of helping businesses and other organizations shift from manual, paper-based processes to sleek digital ones. And the power of PerfectForms can be put to uses well outside the world of traditional office processes. We invite you to watch the demo video and see for yourself how powerful, flexible, and easy-to-use PerfectForms is. You’re sure to envision many innovative uses for online forms and automated workflows in your organization.

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‘Help! I Want to Create Online Forms, but Don’t Know Where to Start.’

Friday, October 5th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Multiple stacks of papers.

Imagine not needing to find storage for stacks of paper forms!

If your business, nonprofit, or government organization uses paper forms, you probably already dislike the inefficiency and waste of resources that paper forms represent.

Paper forms made sense in the days when no better alternatives existed, but now that electronic online forms exist, it’s much harder to make a case for using paper forms. But what if you know your organization would benefit from online forms, but you simply don’t know where to start? Here are several ideas that will have you enjoying the many benefits of online forms as quickly as possible.

Many People Start with Paper, and That’s Fine

If you’re wondering what an online form should look like, you can always start with the paper form that everyone uses already. In fact, many migrations from paper to the web deliberately make the first iteration of the online form look as much as possible like its paper counterpart, because people can easily figure out how to use it.

If you want to try this approach, it’s a good idea to go over each form field on the paper form and ensure that they’re all necessary. If it’s a multi-page form and requires someone to enter their name or employee number on all the pages, the extra name or employee number fields are easy to dispense with, because they’re not necessary with online forms – including multi-page online forms.  Cut out any unnecessary form fields before creating an initial online form with your form software.

Browse Examples of Good Online Forms for Inspiration

Online forms have been around long enough that most of us know what a “good” online form looks like. We also know what a “bad” online form looks like. Unclear field headings, excessively long forms not broken up into individual web pages, and forms that give no guidance with things like which formats dates should be entered are some of the elements that make for less-than-ideal online forms.

Online forms.

Online forms, like paper forms, can be confusing if not designed with care.

Fortunately, you can look at some curated collections of great online forms. Hubspot offers a collection, along with details on what makes each form good. Econsultancy also offers a collection of examples of good online forms. Browsing through these can inspire you.

Choose Form Software with Customizable Templates

One of the most important steps you can take in your initiative to translate paper forms into online forms is to choose your form software wisely. More specifically, you can choose form software that comes with a library of form templates you can use and modify to your needs. This is often preferable for people who are new to creating online forms, because it allows them to get started more quickly with form designs that are already proven.

In addition to choosing form software with an extensive set of templates for you to use, you should choose form software with a user interface that won’t take long to learn. After all, if you buy form software that’s too complicated to use, or that requires you to understand things like HTML coding, you may give up completely before creating the online forms you need.

PerfectForms is online form software that not only comes with an extensive library of online form templates, it also has an exceptionally friendly and intuitive user interface, so you can drag and drop form elements into place. In other words, if you have a paper form you want to duplicate for online use, PerfectForms makes it easy. And there is no programming required.

If you’re ready to create online forms, but worry that it will be beyond your skills, PerfectForms invites you to watch one or more of our basic training videos. You’ll see for yourself how easy it can be to create pixel-perfect forms that are customized to your organization’s exact needs, quickly and easily.

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Relocating? Consider How Workflows Work in Your New Space.

Friday, September 28th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Three people peering down into a cardboard box.

Moving your business into a new space is both exciting and a bit scary.

It represents a fundamental change of the physical space in which your business will operate, and you have the potential to make the most of the changes when planning your move. Naturally, you will coordinate with movers, and have a plan of where people and things will go in the new space. But have you considered how your automated workflows may have to change when you move to a new business space?

Some workflows are directly dependent upon the physical space you occupy. And it’s safe to say that most workflows operate more smoothly in a well-planned workspace that makes sense for the task. Here are some ways to ensure your automated workflows work just as well once you have completed your move to new business space.

Which Workflows Can You Anticipate Changing?

You may know in advance about some workflows that will have to change. For example, if you are moving from a facility with traditional locks and keys to a facility with swipe cards or electronic locks, then the workflow for issuing building access will have to change. You may be able to get the bare bones of the workflow in place before the move, so that it can be implemented as soon as possible after you’re in your new facility.

Or, suppose your new facility will require parking fleet vehicles farther away from where employees will need to pick them up. In this case, you may need to designate a driver to take care of this step of the new workflow – a step that wasn’t necessary before. Anticipating changed workflows in advance can help you get them operational quickly after the move is complete.

How Flexible Is the New Space?

Some workflows are self-contained within a single department, but others must cross departmental lines. The more flexible the new workspace, the easier it will be on everyone to adapt to the cross-departmental workflows in the new environment. If you’re stuck with fixed walls and doors, then you’ll have to be especially strategic about which personnel go in which sections of which floors. But if you have cubicle walls and other re-configurable elements, setting up personnel to more easily accommodate workflows will be easier. Ask yourself which departments interact with each other most frequently and place them accordingly.

Three people walking through a hallway caring cardboard boxes.

Careful location of personnel and departments can optimize workflow operation in your new space.

Can You Group Workflow Participants Optimally?

One of the great things about automated workflows and online forms is that physical papers don’t have to be conveyed from one workflow participant to the next, because it’s all done over the company network or the web. But sometimes, workflows require physical presence, and when you identify these and group workflow participants accordingly, things will run more smoothly.

Suppose temporary badges must be generated for each visitor to the facility. It makes sense that the personnel and machinery required to create the badges be located conveniently – near the reception desk for example. That way, people expecting guests don’t have to traipse to another floor or an obscure corner of the building just to fetch a temporary badge.

Many – possibly most – automated workflows can be translated from the old business facility to the new one with little if any change, and that’s one of the best things about automated workflows. And of course, electronic forms can be accessed from anywhere network access is available. But some workflows will have to be modified when you move to a new workspace. You’re wise to anticipate those that will have to change and set the stage for a smooth transition by understanding how they will change with the relocation.

PerfectForms is online form and automated workflow software that puts the power of workflow development into the hands of the people who actually use the workflows. Because no programming is required, forms and workflows can be developed for the convenience of the users rather than the convenience of programmers. And should you need to modify a form or workflow, PerfectForms makes that easy and convenient as well. You can try out PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial. Find out what online forms and automated workflows should be like, and how they can benefit your business.

5 Use Cases for Automated Workflows You May Not Have Considered

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Person at their desktop with a notebook and laptop computer.

Workflow software is a natural for HR processes, but it can be used for far more than most people think.

Don’t you want to get the most out of your workflow software? If your workflow software is agile enough, you can use it for far more than the typical HR and document management tasks that so many companies use it for.

Automated workflows aren’t just about doing things faster, but about doing things better. Well-designed workflows can reduce errors and collect valuable data along the way – data that can be used for better budget planning, more effective customer tracking, and even faster recovery when disaster strikes. Here are five use cases for automated workflows you may not have considered.

1. Automatic Approval or Eligibility Evaluation

Do small purchase orders really need departmental approval? If not, your purchase order workflow can be made to automatically evaluate conditions to ensure that only purchases greater than a certain threshold amount be sent for departmental approval. And should a user try to game the system by submitting a series of just-under-the-threshold purchases, the system can evaluate the number of purchase orders started by the same person within a defined time period and proceed accordingly.

2. IT Support Tickets

Maybe your “IT department” consists of a single person hired to ensure your computers and devices all work as intended. Even so, using workflow software to create an IT ticket system with online forms for users to describe their problems is smart. Not only is there no chance of losing requests (as can happen with sticky notes and other makeshift solutions for tracking problems), your IT person can collect valuable data that can help inform future IT purchases or even make the business case for hiring an additional IT worker.

3. Submission of Tweets to Your Social Media Manager

If you have a social media team, it’s often best to have a single person in charge of posting social media messages, Tweets, and the like. A simple online form submitting Tweets to the social media manager ensures that all of them meet specifications, and that they are posted strategically, at times when they are likeliest to receive the attention they deserve. Such forms can also be valuable should an old social media post need to be retrieved or taken down later on.

Conversation bubble created with people with the words tweet in the middle.

Workflows for managing social media can organize an often-unpredictable process.

4. Managing Accounts Receivable

An automated workflow that flags AR items that are more than 30 days old can ensure that no accounts slip through the cracks and end up being written off. For example, when an account reaches the 30-day threshold, a reminder can be sent to an AR team member to contact the customer by email. When an account reaches a 60- or 90-day threshold, the workflow can prompt a team member to follow up by phone or certified mail in an attempt to collect all the money owed to you.

5. A Disaster Recovery Workflow

Suppose that your company experiences a natural disaster, break-in, or data breach. It’s upsetting and difficult to know what to do first. But establishing a disaster recovery workflow can help. Such a workflow (run in the cloud, so it’s available even if your on-site equipment is down) can walk users through important steps, like bringing in extra staff, calling authorities, and contacting insurers. Too many businesses put disaster recovery on a back burner and are then caught out once something actually happens.

When your workflow software is flexible and powerful, you can use it for an almost unlimited number of use cases, making your software investment pay off even more than you expected. PerfectForms is online form and workflow software that gives you the power and flexibility to design workflows for countless business processes – including some that may never have been thought of before! What’s more, there’s no programming, because PerfectForms offers an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.

Why not look through some of our many case studies and imagine the ways that PerfectForms can help your business create workflows that give you a stronger competitive edge?

5 Ways to Maximize Value of Your Online Forms to e-Commerce Clients

Thursday, September 6th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Man and woman shopping on a laptop with a credit card.

Online forms are part of the e-commerce experience, though some e-commerce providers put much of the form experience behind the scenes with options like one-click ordering.

But even if you don’t offer one-click ordering, you should do what you can to minimize the “friction” between the customer and the “complete order” button. You can minimize much of that friction through your online forms. Here’s how.

1. Minimize Typing and Make It Mobile-Friendly

If you design your online forms as if they will be used on mobile devices, you accomplish a lot right off the bat. Mobile-friendly forms by definition look great on smaller screens, and because it’s not easy to type extensively on a phone, mobile-friendly forms minimize typing. Sure, your customers may access your e-commerce site in a desktop environment where they have a full keyboard, but even then, minimal typing is appreciated.

2. Make It Dead Simple to Add Items to the Cart

Typing in an item number on an order page feels clunky in an era of bright green “add to cart” buttons. Even if you’re selling square-head bolts or industrial quantities of cooking oil, making it easy to put items into the cart (where the actual form-filling goes on behind the scenes) is expected of online suppliers. The more time it takes to add something to the order, the more time people have to reconsider the purchase.

3. Make the Checkout Page Clean, Simple, and Mobile-Ready

The final page that displays the order before clicking the “submit” button on the order should be a model of clarity and brevity. Design this page with mobile-first in mind too and you can be confident that your buyers will be pleased with what they see whether they’re entering their order from a phone, a tablet, or a laptop. A great looking checkout page heightens the customer’s anticipation of the products they purchase.

Person shopping on there mobile phone.

A clean, non-confusing order confirmation page gives buyers confidence.

4. Save Payment and Shipping Information for Future Purchases

After someone makes their first order, offer to create an account that saves the payment and shipping information they have entered, so that information will already be filled in the next time the customer makes an order. This reduces shopping friction even more, speeding up the order process and making customers feel confident their order has been received as quickly as possible. Not having to spend another three minutes entering payment and shipping information makes more of a difference than you may think!

5. Offer Repurchase / Replenish Options to Bypass Forms Altogether

You can also offer an option that bypasses most forms altogether: implement automatic repurchase/replenishment options. Many e-commerce companies are offering “subscriptions” to products that are consumed regularly, like cosmetics, food items, and cleaning products. Allow the shopper to specify the interval between orders, and give them the ultimate convenience of a standing order that they don’t even have to think about. It’s a win-win situation.

Creating online forms that do exactly what you want requires powerful and flexible form software, like PerfectForms. With PerfectForms, you can create mobile-friendly online forms by dragging and dropping elements into place until they look exactly right. The forms you create with PerfectForms are easy to integrate with web pages, databases, spreadsheets, and other software, so the data collected by your forms is easy to distribute to exactly where it needs to go, whether that’s the warehouse, customer support, or packaging and shipping.

Intrigued? We invite you to watch the PerfectForms demo and see for yourself how powerful and easy-to-use PerfectForms is, no matter how you plan to use your online forms.

Why Online Forms for Local Governments Must Be Mobile-Friendly

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Woman using her mobile phone.

The availability of online forms for local government functions is transformative.

Nobody wants to collect forms from city hall that they have to fill out by hand just so they can get a burn permit, reserve a conference room, or sign up for a class at the recreation center. While it’s fine to have some paper forms on hand for the ever-shrinking portion of the population that doesn’t use the internet, having a range of local government forms online and mobile-friendly can save time, money, and the hassle of correcting mistakes.

And while online forms are good, mobile-friendly online forms are better for many reasons. Here’s why…

Consider Residents from All Economic Backgrounds

Most cities, whatever their size, have residents from every socioeconomic background. Not everyone has home internet service, but most people have smartphones. As of this year, around 45 million internet users in the US go online solely through mobile devices – that’s around 16% of internet users. And that figure is expected to rise to nearly 19% by the year 2022.

By creating online forms that are difficult or impossible to use online, you could be denying access to a significant portion of your citizenry. And even among people who have home internet service and access to a desktop environment, using mobile is second nature much of the time.

Mobile-Friendly Features Benefit Almost All Online Forms

When you create online forms that are mobile-friendly, you inherently make the forms easier to use by minimizing the amount of typing required by the form user and by keeping forms as brief as possible. It’s smart to use a “mobile-first” philosophy when designing your online forms, because the people who end up using the forms in a desktop environment will appreciate these time- and effort-saving features too.

Mother and daughter looking at a laptop.

The features that make mobile-friendly forms great are also good for forms in desktop environments.

Mobile-friendly and mobile-first designs for local government forms force you to really consider what information you must collect, and the best way to collect it. And by minimizing user typing through drop-down menus, radio buttons, and other tap-friendly mechanisms, you cut down on the number of mistakes on completed forms.

Forms for Local Government Employees Should be Mobile-Friendly Too

Making online forms for local government employees mobile-friendly is another smart move. One of your city park rangers could, for example, discover a dangerous tree branch on a greenway and report it then and there so a crew can be dispatched right away to take care of it. Someone on a public works truck may notice that a resident’s trash bin has a broken lid and report it immediately so it isn’t forgotten. A police officer may notice a potential codes violation and report it so the planning department can check it out right away.

Choosing form software that makes mobile-friendliness easy is the key to making local government online forms work as effectively and efficiently as possible. PerfectForms is online workflow and form software with a user-friendly interface that allows form creators to simply drag and drop form elements into place. It also makes it easy to customize forms with colors, fonts, and graphics that assure users they are using the correct form. And because there is no programming required, PerfectForms is extremely cost-effective for organizations that must monitor spending closely.

Mobile-friendly forms offer far greater efficiency, as well as better accuracy and reach, and help make public services more accessible to everyone. Did you know you can try PerfectForms for free? Sign up for a free trial and discover for yourself how the right online form software can power more efficient and effective operations.

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Is It Time to Re-Imagine Your Online Forms?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Person using their tablet at a grocery store.

Most people are used to completing online forms in their work and personal lives.

Online forms are nothing new, and most people are used to them.

In fact, online forms are the backbone of many businesses, and are typically the primary way businesses collect data about their customers and their internal employees. But online forms can be so much more than just electronic versions of the paper forms you used to use. They can accomplish much more, in less time, all while building a collection of data that will help you run your business better and make your customers happier. If you have been using your current online forms for a while, maybe it’s time to re-imagine them.

Duplicates of Paper Forms are Fine as a Starting Point

When companies first make the transition from paper forms to online forms, it makes sense in many cases to simply duplicate the layout of the paper forms for their online versions. That way they look familiar to people who are used to the paper forms, and it will be easier for people to make the transition from filling out paper to completing forms online.

But this is hardly ever the ideal online form layout. We’ve all seen good and bad online forms, and it is often the bad online forms that most closely mimic the paper ones of earlier times. The truth is, what worked fine on paper is often far from ideal when it comes to online forms. Fortunately, with the right online form software, creating engaging online forms is easy.

Conversational Data Collection Should Be a Goal

Your goal with online forms is essentially conducting a conversation with the form user – a conversation that yields the data you need. People are put off by online forms that are massive, detailed, and require a lot of typing and scrolling. For one thing, people don’t want businesses (or their employers) collecting data beyond what is appropriate. No one will fill out a highly detailed landing page form solely to gain access to a white paper.

If you must collect more data than what can be captured in two or three questions, it’s usually better to do so with a series of screens, each containing one or two questions. A progress bar at the bottom of the page to let users know how far they still have to go in completing the forms is also helpful.

Woman sitting on the floor using a laptop.

Multiple, easy-to-complete screens beat single-screen, massive online forms every time.

Use Collected Data Wisely to Improve Personalization

The data you collect can often be used to improve online form personalization immediately. If, for example, the first bit of data you collect is a person’s name, you can then address them by name in subsequent form pages: “Thanks, Jessica. This page is where you enter your shipping data.”

Behind the scenes, collected data can also be mined to enhance personalization. Suppose Jessica completes her forms and then returns a week later to place another order. The new form can be presented with her contact and shipping information already entered, saving her time and assuring her that you already “know” her.

Simplicity and Reduction of Screen Clutter Is Important

The more you can reduce screen clutter and simplify online forms, the better. If there are only two or three possible answers, presenting the user with answer buttons to click rather than drop-down menus (or making them type in their answer) speeds form completion along even more, and is far friendlier to your mobile device users. In fact, when you design your online forms with mobile users in mind, you make things easier on all your form users. Lack of mobile-friendliness with your online forms is a sure way to frustrate and potentially drive away form users.

Of course, making online forms that people want to engage with requires that your online form software be up to the challenge. PerfectForms is a leading provider of online form and workflow software that makes creation and modification of online forms simple and fast. It has a drag-and-drop interface and makes it easy to create forms that are aesthetically pleasing, fast, and mobile-friendly. And you can try PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial. Don’t let your aging online forms frustrate and turn away users. The power of beautiful, engaging online forms is yours with PerfectForms.

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How Smart Contracts Could Revolutionize Workflows

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Woman going over a document with a male coworker.

Not all contracts involve negotiating and actually signing on a dotted line.

Contracts are such an ingrained part of everyday life that we don’t notice them a lot of the time.

Basically, a contract is an agreement between two parties that if Party 1 does this thing, then Party 2 does that thing. If I provide you with a computer program or a pair of shoes or a great haircut, then you pay me an agreed-upon amount for it.

Many of today’s contracts could be considered “smart” already. For example, if you have an agreement with your bank that a certain number of dollars comes out of your automatically deposited paycheck and goes into the bank account of your landlord or insurance company, that agreement could be considered “smart,” because it’s set up once and allowed to run on its own, without you, the bank, or the recipient of the funds giving input every time the transaction needs to take place.

True smart contracts, that incorporate blockchain technology, are better in many ways.

Why Blockchain Technology Makes Smart Contracts Better

Trust imbalances occur at many stages of the execution of a transaction. If I buy something from an online auction, I send money and expect to receive a product in return. Most of the time it works fine, but what about when it doesn’t? I sent money and didn’t get my product, but the seller’s records say they never received my money. Which version of the truth is correct?

Blockchain remedies such situations by automatically creating a distributed ledger of discrete transactions that are not owned by one or the other party to a contract. In other words, if I held up my end of the smart contract and sent the money under a smart contract, that independent ledger will say so, and it’s believable because I have no way of altering it. In fact, no one really has a way of fudging that ledger, because discrete transactions are never erased. They may be amended, but the old transaction record is always there.

Benefits: Speed and Trust

Smart contracts speed up transaction workflows because there’s no waiting around for intermediaries to confirm that something happened. Sure, ACH transactions are stupendously faster than the old system of waiting for a check to clear, but smart contract transactions made with the aid of blockchain technology take the process to an even faster level of operation.

Night street view in a city.

Blockchain technology has the potential to turbo charge execution of the contracts of tomorrow.

Furthermore, the existence of a distributed ledger that isn’t owned by any one person makes it virtually impossible to fake numbers and other details. In other words, a transaction (or any other automated workflow, really) can proceed faster because the speed bumps of trust imbalances go away under smart contracts.

Smart Contracts and Automated Workflows

Automated workflows themselves can be considered a basic type of smart contract because of the triggers and “if-then” aspects of many workflows. “If the purchase order is for more than $1,000, then the approval of a department head is required,” for example. Not every automated workflow needs blockchain technology to ensure optimum speed and trust. We’re still humans after all, and we know that if Carlos in Drafting says he’ll deliver the engineering sketch file by noon Tuesday, he’ll deliver, because he always has.

But some automated workflows may benefit tremendously from the incorporation of smart contracts. This is particularly true in B2C companies that want to make transactions faster, more trustworthy, and less laden with overhead.

It can also be used in multi-party contracts to keep workflows on track. Say a plumbing contractor is contracted to begin work on the plumbing system for your new office building as soon as the smart contract indicates that the pipes have been delivered from the pipe manufacturer. Delays simply won’t fly when a smart contract (as backed up by a distributed, unalterable ledger) shows that the materials were delivered on time to the right place.

Workflow automation won’t demand smart contracts in every instance, but as blockchain technology emerges, it’s clear to see how incorporation of smart contracts and blockchain technology will improve transactions of nearly every type.

Smart workflows are nothing new for PerfectForms, which is form and workflow software designed to empower users to create custom forms and workflows that do exactly what they want, complete with triggers, notifications, audit trail creation, and reporting. Interested? We invite you to read through some of our many case studies to see how PerfectForms makes businesses in every industry work smarter.

Design Online Forms to Deliver Customer Quotes Flawlessly

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018 by MEDIA MEDIA

Woman lying on the floor looking at her laptop.

Online quotes are great time savers, and that’s one reason they’re so popular among businesses and individuals.

Whether they’re searching for something for their business or their personal life, people often wish they could get a quick online quote for a product or service they want.

That’s why so many businesses offer simple online forms that potential customers can use to learn more about the financial commitment they’re considering. Some even offer quick online calculators so people can learn more about what they can and can’t afford. Online mortgage calculators are an example of this.

Online forms for quotes benefit both parties. The person making the inquiry can get a better sense of what they can spend, and the provider has the potential to add a valuable new lead. Here’s how to design online forms that people will want to use for obtaining online quotes.

Make It Easy to Enter Specifics

Suppose you have a blank for entering a dollar value – perhaps a ballpark estimate of what the potential customer wants to spend. Do they enter the data as $20,000, as 20000, or as 20,000? Make it clear in the field directions above the blank (“Enter figure without dollar signs and commas” for example).

Drop-down menus or check-box options where the user can enter a range are also helpful. Minimize the amount of typing the form users have to do so the process is quick; they’ll have less time to reconsider and perhaps conclude that the effort isn’t worthwhile. These options are also far easier on people who use your form on mobile devices.

Don’t Be Pushy

It would be great if a person handed over their full name, contact information, and an indication that they’re ready to buy right now, but not everyone is in that situation. Some people are merely curious and don’t want to give you their life story to find out how much it costs to insure their 2007 Mitsubishi. In general, the less you require of the form user before you provide that estimate, the better. If some information on the inquiry form is optional, either make that clear or mark the mandatory fields with asterisks so users know what information is absolutely necessary in order to generate a quote.

Offer More Personalized Options

Maybe the user asking for a quote is ready to make a purchase and has no problem giving you their contact information. Or perhaps they are asking for a quote that is outside the scope of your online form. Offer these users another option, such as submitting their contact information along with a brief description of the type of quote they want.

Man in a business suit working at a laptop and reading a document.

Offer more personalized options for people interested in larger quotes, or more customized quotes.

More importantly, when you receive one of these completed forms, act quickly. The more time that passes between receiving a form and getting back to the potential customer, the more time the customer has to find another provider. In fact, any time a quote request form is completed request, the user should be taken to a ‘thank you’ page. It’s important to provide assurance that the information was received and that a quote will be provided soon.

Congratulations on Making Warm Contacts

The great thing about online forms offering customer quotes is that you receive contact information that is not “cold” or random. You’re receiving information from someone who has actually expressed interest, and you should make the most of that with your best customer service practices. Of course, not every quote leads to a sale, but those contacts are valuable nonetheless. Some inquirers may not be ready to buy now, but they might be in six months, and the warm reception they receive from your company will help them remember you.

The right online form software makes all the difference when you provide online quotes to potential customers. PerfectForms is online form software that makes it easy to create custom online forms that look and perform exactly as you want them to. You can include only the form fields you need, and make the forms look fantastic and memorable with your own branding, colors, fonts, and logos. Did you know you can test drive PerfectForms for free? Sign up for a free trial and find out for yourself how to make online forms work hard for you.

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