FileMaker: Little Things That Influence Data Entry Workflow

As a FileMaker developer, your decisions (both large and small) can have a huge impact on others. As a developer creates or modifies dozens of data solutions over their career, they may loose sight about the significance of small changes. For example, take something as innocent as the tab order on a layout. 

The tab key in FileMaker browse mode allows a user to quickly jump from one field to the next. In most cases, this setup will align to some sort of workflow or chain of thought. A classic example is when a developer is handed a form that is normally filled out by hand and asked to create a database to replace it. The developer will typically add the standard boilerplate fields (primary key, created by, modified by, etc...) and then add the fields on the layout in the same order as represented on the sheet. When the developer arranges the fields on the layout, they also tend to match the format found on the form. 

A developer might see patterns in the form that could be enhanced from a data entry perspective. They may take some liberties in the layout design and present those to the customer. This can be something as simple as the tab order (mentioned above) or include value list integration, script triggers, lookups or a collection of other basic enhancements. In this example, the developer is potentially adding value on top of the creation of the database value because they are streamlining a process. 

Lets say a change streamlines the data entry process for a record by 15 seconds, you might consider this too small to register as "significant". However, what about the aggregate? Let's say that we have 200 new records a day and 260 working days in the year. That brings us up to 52,000 seconds a year saved for the data entry process alone. Again, we are not talking about an amazing amount of time because that only equates to 14 hours saved per year but the change only took 5 minutes to accomplish. Any business will jump at the chance to have 14 hours of work saved with an overall investment of 5 minutes of process tweaking. 

I have literally had people thank me in rapid machine gun mode for tab order changes (thank you, thank you & thank you). They have said things such as "the way it jumps down to that field at the bottom has been driving me crazy for years!". That type of hiccup normally comes about when someone makes layout changes but doesn't re-examine the impact on the data entry tab order. 

That last sentence is an example of how little things can influence data entry workflow in a negative fashion. A developer could spend a tremendous amount of energy adding features to a solution and have it impacted negatively by users because of the little things. 

I guess if I had to wrap this up, a developer needs to be cognizant of the little things as much as the big things because a database is a type of ecosystem. 

© 2016 Dwayne Wright