Features to Look for in Data Collection Form Software
Whether you collect field data, medical data, or accounting information, having the right data collection form can increase your organization’s efficiency, accuracy, and productivity.
The needs of organizations may vary greatly, but most companies requiring the capability to create forms also need the following features.
If you’ve never experienced form creation software with these capabilities, you may not realize what you have been missing. Once you do, you may not want to give them up for mobile-unfriendly tools that lack flexibility.
Before we dive into these important features you’ll want on your form collection software, let’s consider the following statistics:
52.2% of online traffic in the U.S. came from mobile devices in 2018.
89% of mobile media time takes place through apps.
67% of employees use personal devices including their smartphones and tablets at work.
With these statistics in mind, you can easily see how responsive, flexible form creation software serves a critical role in increased productivity in any industry.
Design Forms to Meet Your Organization’s Needs With Just a Few Clicks
Above all, you want intuitive, easy-to-use form software. You shouldn’t have to be a web developer or programmer to create functional, informative, and intuitive forms for your team.
A form template designer should make it easy to drag and drop to create forms using collapsible sections. You should be able to view draft versions prior to publishing forms for your team to access. Users should be able to easily collaborate on form build-outs based on their level of access within the program.
Automatic version control functionality should make it easy to keep track of edits.
Here’s a short video of the XForms Form Template Designer in action:
View and Enter Data Easily on Any Device With Any Operating System
Especially with the growing prevalence of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, your team must be able to create forms, view data, and enter data on any platform.
XForms uses Progressive Web Application (PWA) technology to provide consistency across platforms — regardless of the device, operating system, or browser used.
You should be able to use the native mobile app on any:
In certain situations, you can even use XForms on Microsoft HoloLens. It also works with the Kindle Fire. If your device uses iOS, Android (even a stripped-down version like you’ll find on the Fire), or Windows, you can use XForms seamlessly.
Here’s a side-by-side image of XForms running on iOS vs on an Android Phone:
You should also look for a form creation platform that works across browsers. While 63.52% of the population accesses the internet via Chrome, other browsers have enough of a market share that you would want your form software to be compatible with.
- Safari – 19.26%
- Firefox – 3.78%
- Samsung Internet – 3.49%
- Microsoft Edge – 3%
- Opera – 2.12%
View Data Online or Off
Especially in field data collection situations, workers may not always have access to a stable internet connection. Form creation software should work online or offline for maximum productivity.
Data capture represents just a small part of many jobs. It shouldn’t be the main focus. Your teams should be able to get in and out of data collection apps quickly to spend the bulk of their time on their real work.
Create Excel-like Table Grids on Smartphones
Field workers don’t want to squint at data or scroll through multiple screens of text to find what they need while viewing your field data collection form through their mobile device.
The ability to create tables that look and function like Excel spreadsheets can save your workers time and make data collection an easy task.
Most form software displays data fields as one row per cell on a mobile device. But XForms allows you to easily view and enter data in a configurable table grid with many of the same features present in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.
Easily Edit Data, Rows, or Columns in Tables
Viewing data in tables serves as a great feature that makes it easy for workers in the field to access data with a touch. Plus, rows and columns tend to be easier on the eyes than scrolling through pages of data.
XForms provides some spreadsheet functionality from your mobile device, laptop, or any other computer. You can:
- Add columns and rows
- Lock columns and rows, together or separately
- Include default values for any cell
- Move columns and rows
- Clone a row
Plus, you can calculate columns of data using a simple formula — just like in Excel or Sheets. You can even add an optional footer indicating what the calculated value represents. Here’s a screenshot of an leak survey form that is used for calculating leak emissions rates.
Flexibility to Design Forms for Any Purpose
Some organizations may have specific field data collection needs, necessitating a software tool build specifically for the type of field work your organization. However, some of these specialty software tools lock you into their version of a form, and don’t have custom forms outside of that particular vertical. With XForms, you can build pretty much any type of form. An intuitive, flexible, and user-friendly platform ensures your form creation software will grow as your company’s needs grow.
Capabilities to Capture Metadata
Productivity and accountability in the field often require metadata. Your form software should capture information each time a form is opened or closed. Important metadata includes:
- Date/time stamps
Entering metadata by hand wastes time and increases the risk of error. With automatically captured metadata, you create a culture of accountability while increasing productivity.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Often in field data studies, photos can be used for measurements, progress reports, and even punch lists of tasks to be completed.
Your form software should allow you to take pictures and add them to forms. You should be able to set the number of pictures you can add to each form and the resolution of the photos.
Default resolution should be high enough to view the images clearly but low enough to maintain low upload times — even on higher-end smartphones and mobile devices.
XForms sets the default resolution at forty percent, with the ability to adjust that resolution up to 100% if needed.
Add Captions to Photos and Add Annotations and Drawings
You should be able to add a drawing layer to images, allowing your team to annotate images with measurements, notes, and even circles or arrows to highlight specific areas of the picture. You should also have the capability to add captions, leaving notes for those viewing the pictures.
Again, flexibility reigns supreme. Make sure these capabilities allow you to work cross-platform on any device and through any browser. Your form creation software should also save a copy of the original, unedited photo for later reference. This capability comes in handy if you make a mistake in your drawings. You can delete and start over with the original image.
Control Access for Customers or Workers on Your Team
Regardless of your industry, you may work with mission-critical, confidential data. Look for form software that enables you to control access to data and forms with a click with multiple access levels depending on the user’s role.
XForms provides four different access levels:
- Customer (read-only)
- Assessor (add or edit forms created by them)
- Manager (add forms and view any forms generated by their team)
- Admin (God-mode; add forms, view and edit any forms within the organization, grant and disable access for other users)
Taking away user access should be as easy as one click, and you should also be able to force password changes to maintain security.
Easily View Data on a Reporting Dashboard
Because many workers perform better visually, your form creation software should permit them to display aggregated field data in their choice of doughnut charts or tables.
It should also be easy to sort data and view only what you need at the time.
Save Forms as PDFs
While you need permissions to keep confidential information secure, sometimes you want to be able to share data in a universal, easy-to-open format. Look for form software that enables you to view saved forms and aggregate data on screen or as a PDF, including signatures and photos.
Integrate With Other Software APIs for Seamless Transitions to Your Enterprise Software
Whether using Procore or Slack, OneDrive or Dropbox, Google Sheets or Office 365 and Sharepoint — you want your data collection mobile app to integrate seamlessly with your enterprise software.
Extract form data like signatures and photos and insert it into your enterprise software for up-to-date data collection. You can also update reference data in XForms from data stored in other systems for true cross-platform compatibility.
Take a look at the XForm’s open RESTful APIs documentation here: https://api.xformsweb.com
Free Demo Using Your Organization’s Custom Forms
Investing in enterprise-level form creation software can be a big move. You want to make sure it fits your company’s goals and your team’s comfort levels with technology. You also want to make sure it integrates, as advertised, with your company’s enterprise software and apps.
You should be able to give the form creation software a test run — using your own custom form tailored to your needs and industry — before investing in the software for the long term.
Request your free XForms demo account now to see if our unique platform checks all the boxes for your needs in form creation and field data collection software. Click/tap the button below to get started.