Wednesday, March 26, 2014
To say that I have seen thousands of camp forms is not an understatement! While there are similarities and best practices, there are also prominent differences across the spectrum. I have seen half page registration forms and 15 page camper profiles. I have seen everything consolidated on one form collected at one time from registrants and questions split out onto 5-10 separate forms collected at different times in the year.
As a software company, we look for the commonalities and try to standardize what we can, making things simple and utilizing industry best practices. While standardization is great, it can only go so far – you need to be able to build in robust customization capabilities if you want to meet the needs of a wide range of camps.
In our web-based version, camps can create as many forms as they want with as many questions as they want. You need a half page registration form with 5 questions? No problem. You need a 10 page registration form with 100 questions because you are serving children with special needs? Sounds good. (I discussed creating forms in a previous post here.)
The focus of this post is to highlight a very specific point: not all data that you collect from parents and campers is equal, it does not all hold the same level of importance. Some data is more important. If that is true, then it is likely also true that you want your software screens to display the really important data on the most important screens and the less important data can be buried a little deeper. Screen space is important real estate and we want to use it wisely!
Enter “configurable fields” (aka “custom fields”).
While we have made some decisions on your behalf :) regarding what is critical, we have left a lot of the decision to you. There are some key screens in the software, screens that you will get to quickly and use all the time.
The household screen is one. We can probably all agree that you want to collect and see info on the parents, phone numbers and address…it is less likely we will get consensus on Church, Synagogue, referral source, ethnicity, income level, etc. So, you can ask whatever questions you need to online from the parents AND you decide which of those fields you want to display prominently on your internal household screen. You choose the order of these configurable fields, their structure (e.g. drop-down, text) and how many you want.
Obviously, the camper screen is critical for you. Again, we probably all agree on some data - it is pretty important to see what campers are registered in, their gender, age, etc. We won’t necessarily agree on other data like t-shirt size, swim level, color war team, type of diabetes, bed wetting issues, etc. You collect whatever data you need from the registrants and then…. you choose which of this information is the most critical and display it on the camper’s screen as you see fit.
It is important to point out that ALL of the data you collect is available for viewing and reporting. This is a matter of which data is MORE important and therefore deserving of a more prominent spot on your valuable screen real estate.
Does this make sense? An appropriate way to address the varying needs of camps?
Thanks for reading and participating.
Love your Software,