How Your Users Access Reports

From Dwayne Wright

Database reports are great for a number of reasons. They can give you status on a situation, such as I need to do this little thing because the report shows me it is needed. It can help a management team make educated business decisions on the future direction of a company or organization. It can be a yardstick for growth by comparing one set of date ranges reported values against another date range. Hey, as a developer, it can help show me data entry errors or “weird” stuff that came across in a legacy data import.

Thing is, where do you put the button or menu that accesses a report?

One frame of mind is to include the button(s) that are report specific in the area they are relevant. Customer related reports in the customer related layouts, sales related reports in the invoice layouts and so forth. There are (at least) a couple problems with this line of thinking. First off, what about the reports that are not specific to a particular area or that straddle more than one area? The other problem is that users have to navigate to a particular area to run a particular report. This leads to the eventual, “where is that button for that report located” experience for some users.

This one has been a favorite of mine for many years. The idea is to have one layout with all the buttons of all the types of reports you can run in a system. Many times, this will be part of the main screen for the solution. When FileMaker 8 came out with tabs, I would put my main access screen for one tab, all my report button in a tab and all my help documentation for the solution in another tab. The downside for this is if you want to run a report in the screen you are in, using the found set you are looking at. Centralized reports generally run on all records or require you to enter in a new set of search settings for the report.

THE CENTRALIZED REPORT MENU (using FileMaker Advanced)
This is a variation of the Centralized Layout approach. You simply create a custom menu using FileMaker 8 Advanced and add that menu to all the screens.

This is a variation of the Where The Data Is approach but instead of using buttons (that take up valuable screen real estate), you have a custom menu that is just for the screen / module your are in. Customer related reports are a custom menu in the customer related layouts, sales related reports are a custom menu in the invoice layouts and so forth.

Here is what I do (when the client will let me), I create the centralized report layout and centralized custom menu at the same time. When I do one, I update the other. It really only takes a couple minutes to add a report to a custom menu. As I’m doing my reports, I pay attention to the number or reports that I’m running that may be of the “found set” variety. In instances like this, I duplicate the main report and take all the search requirements out (because these reports are found set based). I may add a button to the layout but I will surely add a custom report menu for that module. What is cool is that you can have the found set reports be a sub menu of the main reports.
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© 2007 - Dwayne Wright -

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