Classic Scenario: Boss asks you… “Research the best mobile form tools, pick the best one, and start a pilot”

So you do what anyone else would do: ask Google.

You’d look through a bunch of websites, take down notes, and probably put together a list of things to compare each against.  You’d probably also visit Capterra, G2, Sourceforge, and other comparison sites.

After a few weeks of this, including attending some demos and talking to some salespeople, you’d be ready to show your boss the research you conducted.  And you’d probably put all this info down in Excel to draw up a list of pros and cons, pricing points of each, and a list of features, with each different tool on a different column displaying checkmarks or no checkmarks.

The likelihood of choosing the mobile forms tool with the most features is high.  But that’s usually not the best choice.

The better choice is to pick the one that’s the easiest to use in the field

If your field crews don’t use the tool, then what’s the point of going through the pain of creating digital versions of your field forms, learning the tool, and deploying it?

Put yourself in the field crews’ shoes

Sure, its easy to use something in the comfort of a climate-controlled room with great lighting, when you can focus all your attention on the app and the field forms.  But try that outside, in 90+ degree weather, with the sun baking down so hard that you can barely see the screen and mostly only see a reflection of your face peering at the screen. Or try it when there’s 30 mph chilly wind gusts blowing dust in your face, or during a slight drizzle of 34 degree rain while wearing thick gloves that you have to take off to tap on the device screen.  Then give yourself a shortened timeline to get things done while carrying a lot of equipment (some of which might malfunction at any given moment) and trying to acclimate yourself to your surroundings, which you’ve never been to before.

Simple and Clear

It’s for these reasons that in order to get field traction with your forms, the mobile app and the forms themselves need to be minimalistic, intuitive, simple and clear.  It’s not that these tools can’t create elaborate forms, it’s that you don’t want to.  That is, if you want field crews to actually use them.

A good analogy

Take a look at the TV remotes below.   Which one is easier to use?  And the easier one, is it less powerful than the difficult one?  No.  In fact, the easier one is also the more powerful one, because it’s easier.


Do your field crews a favor and stop building complex, elaborate forms

Instead, build simple forms, with only the things they need to capture while in the field and nothing more.  Forms that take seconds to complete, not minutes.  Intuitive, consistent forms, with logical break points and groupings.  Pre-populate fields wherever possible.  Use listboxes instead of free-form text fields where it makes sense.  And those “…it would be great if you could also capture xyz”?  Leave those off unless absolutely necessary.  

If you do the above your field crews will thank you in the form of increased user adoption.  

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