5 Apricot Software Form Designer Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
Forms collect data in Social Solutions Apricot™ software. Tier 1 forms generally collect profile or client demographic data and Tier 2 forms generally collect interaction, service, and activity data. Designing forms impacts data entry, reporting, and system administration. Apricot software begins and ends with forms, so building clean forms is a critical skill for all Apricot administrators.
Since Apricot forms are the foundation of your Apricot database, it is important that they are built correctly.
Apricot forms should have the following characteristics.
- Collect relevant data
- Allow for efficient data entry
- Facilitate reporting
Your Apricot database is a blank canvas. Whether you are a new user or an existing user, new Apricot forms must be created from scratch (unless you build forms from a template). The ability to customize Apricot forms is a strength of Apricot software, but there are some common form designer pitfalls that should be avoided.
Form building best practice
Blueprint Apricot software forms before you build them. An Apricot form blueprint should outline the important data you want to capture and define how to structure the fields, logic, and layout of the form.
Designing forms in Apricot is straightforward for most users, just drag-and-drop fields in your form. Make the process even easier by intentionally planning each Apricot form before you build them. Blueprinting a form before you build it will ensure that it functions properly.
1. Too many email triggers
Email triggers are useful tools. Email triggers connect both internal and external users to Apricot by notifying them of events that happen in the software. Setup email triggers to notify Apricot users and non-users (i.e. people who don’t have an Apricot login).
Too many email triggers on a form is an issue. It is easy to lose track of email trigger workflows when there are too many triggers on a single form. Questions like, who is notified when a record is created; who is notified when a record is updated; who is notified when this field changes or that field changes, are difficult to answer when forms are over-populated with email triggers.
In addition to the on-form complexity of email triggers, off-form complexity also increases. Users and non-users alike can become inundated with notification emails. Too many emails is a productivity killer, so email triggers should be intentionally designed based on their relevancy to a workflow.
- Add email triggers that only add value to your organization’s workflows
- Outline the email trigger structure for each form in a user guide or administrator manual
- Develop dynamically updating reports that display email trigger information instead of sending email triggers for each new or updated record
- Limit email trigger notifications to people who don’t have user access to Apricot (i.e. those who can’t view data in the Apricot database)
2. Misusing document attachment fields
You probably purchased Apricot to streamline organizational data management and to reduce the amount of paper flowing around the office. A paperless record system saves time and saves money. Add document attachment fields to Apricot forms to reduce the physical paper required for your programs, services, and operational tasks.
Document attachment fields should not be used in excess. Don’t attach files that contain information required for reporting either. Avoid situations where data entry requires scanning and attaching files rather than entering discrete data into Apricot. Discrete, reportable data should be entered in data fields in Apricot not attached as files to a record.
Also avoid using Apricot as a digital filing cabinet for scanned files. Document attachment fields are great for point of access (i.e. opening a record to view the attachment), but attached files aren’t available in bulk. Apricot doesn’t have a file folder system where you can access attached files for mass download. Look for other file management systems if you need bulk file management for electronic files.
- Only attach documents that contain information that is of no value in reports
- Don’t use Apricot as a file management system, only for point of access documentation
- Try to use data entry fields instead of document attachment where possible
3. Too many fields
Too many fields can make data entry cumbersome. Apricot loads more slowly as forms get longer. The user experience of a form also decreases as a form gets longer. Apricot forms should collect relevant data that is required for reporting only.
Consider splitting forms with many fields into multiple data entry forms and linking those forms together with form linking fields. Discrete forms with manageable data entry will streamline user engagement and increase the chances that forms are completed fully and accurately.
Apricot is a blank canvas. It can be customized to track anything. That doesn’t mean it should track everything. Design forms with just those fields that are required for reporting.
- Streamline data entry to just those fields required for reporting
- Split long forms into multiple forms for simplified data entry
4. Compounding layers of form logic
Most of the common form designer pitfalls are a product of overbuilding an Apricot database. Form logic is no different. It becomes more difficult to manage form logic dependencies as the form logic structure gets bigger.
Form logic streamlines data entry and improves data quality, but form logic can also be too restrictive. Form logic can break forms or make them unusable.
Avoid these challenges with intentional form logic design. Start with a base level of form logic and build outward from that dependency. Starting with broad form logic statements first and building more targeted form logic statements second will ensure that your form logic statements don’t break the form.
- Use form logic in areas that either streamline data entry or improve data quality
- Start with broad-based form logic first and get more specific second
- Blueprint form logic conditions before building them
5. Irrelevant form linking
Form linking is a feature that can be overbuilt as well. Forms are linked so reports can contain information from unassociated records in your Apricot database.
Data collection and reporting requirements are often more complex than the standard Tier 1 parent, Tier 2 child relationship, but adding too many links to a single form or using links for purposes that aren’t best practice can cause problems with reports.
Too many links complicates reporting in two ways.
- First, it is hard to keep track of multiple link relationships. The structure you use to link forms must be translated into reports and not knowing the structure can affect your ability to produce reports.
- Second, Apricot reports get more complex as data from various forms are added to a report section. You must structure the form relationships of the report to accurately reflect your desired report format. Complex linking is therefore more challenging to replicate in reports.
Form linking is also related to other Apricot form designer features like auto-populate. Don’t create links for the sole purpose of auto-populating data in a form. Linking should be defined by the workflow of data entry and requirements of reporting, not the need for auto-population.
Adding a link for auto-population overcomplicates reports and may require custom report development via the SQL report builder for all reports using that form (which is not a sustainable or ideal long-term solution).
- Add links only when data entry workflows dictate
- Add links only when report relationships are required
- Minimize form linking where possible and don’t force form linking for auto-populate
Apricot form design
Apricot data entry and data management relies on form structure. Avoid these common pitfalls and create forms that empower reporting and data administration.