Fashion is my first passion, CRM is my second, so naturally when it comes to form layout, design and style I thought of my own style and how I approach planning an outfit from my closet. Much like your wardrobe, CRM forms allow for different combinations of “styles” or “looks” depending on the number and type of tabs, sections, and fields you use and how you format them. And additionally you can have multiple forms for the same record for different uses, similar to wearing the same dress with different accessories depending on the occasion.
In this blog my worlds are colliding and we are going to explore a few tips that I have borrowed from my wardrobe and style lessons for form layout and design.
1. Organizing your closet: Make your staple items easy to access
You must organize first. My closet is organized into sections, and the items I use most frequently (like my favorite blazer and my go to handbag) are in a section that is easier to access. Seasonal items are stored and moved to the front when in season.
The sections and fields on your forms should be organized the same way. Sections and fields that get used more frequently should be closer to the top of the form where they are easier to work with. So how do you know which fields get used the most? Utilize a tool like the CRM Data Detective that gives you the percentage of utilizations of fields. With this info, you can organize the fields and sections accordingly.
2. Organizing your closet: Organize according to your process.
When planning an outfit I make selections from my jewelry box every time so according to tip 1, if it’s easy to get to then we are done. But not so fast. I also choose my jewelry last, and prefer to look in a mirror when putting it on, so optimal placement, according to my dressing process, is near the exit and in close proximity to a mirror. Considering my process and making a subtle change makes my life that much easier.
The form sections and the fields should have a flow that considers process as well. When organizing these items, reference your business processes and consider how you consume information, not just frequency of use.
For example: one of our customers in a call center had 3 main sections of information that get used every time on the form (phone call info, contact info, and appointment/activity info). The phone call info was the base or starting point, so it’s on the left. Next is the concern of who we are talking to or contact info, so it’s in the middle, and lastly is setting an appointment for this contact or a follow up activity so it’s on the far right.
This isn’t a groundbreaking concept, but a bunch of subtle changes will go a long way.
3. Keeping your fashion current: Plan to edit on a schedule
Any expert stylist will tell you to edit your closet at least once a year if not after every season. I frequently review my clothes and move them around or discard them based on the last few months of wear.
Almost every customer we work with reviews their business processes and makes changes (sometimes drastic ones) especially in the beginning of an implementation. You should revisit your form layout as well. Over time your business will grow and evolve, your processes will change, and so will the data you are working with. If you want to keep things fresh, then update your forms with your processes. Scheduling to revisit your forms at least once a year will ensure that they are current with what your business has going on.
4. Consulting your stylist: Ask the question “Does this look okay?”
I often times ask my friends if they like these shoes or those shoes? that necklace or no necklace? And i frequently read fashion magazine for inspiration and direction.
The CRM form editing UI has the “save”, “save as” and “publishing” buttons separate for a reason. If you are making form layout and style changes don’t be afraid to get a second opinion from the business users or your consultant. You don’t have to publish right away, so get input first.
5. Making it your own: Style the way you like it
Alexander McQueen said “It's a new era in fashion…It's all about the individual and personal style”. I couldn’t agree more. I pick clothing and plan outfits that fit my lifestyle and that wouldn’t necessarily work on someone else.
Your CRM forms are no different. Your business is unique, and the Microsoft CRM team has done an excellent job of creating easily configurable forms and fields with multiple style options to fit your unique needs. You can do any combination of 6 tab types, 4 section types, 11 field types, and 5 additional form features such as quick views and sub grids all with multiple formatting options.
There is no “one size fits all” form. The style and layout of your forms should be unique to your business and be the right fit for your processes.
The options can be overwhelming, so here are a few tips to help you find the style that works for you.
- For a less “white space” look: Make your section labels all CAPS and add lines at the top, it will visually break it up. You can also make your sub grid labels all CAPS too.
- Sub Grid space optimization: Change subgrid line formatting to 3 or less unless you have 4 or more records to populate them. This will eliminate extra unused space on the screen where they sit.
- Field layout: count how many fields need to be grouped together and play with the layout combinations. If you have a field with a long label or one that needs more input space count that one as 2 or more fields. Remember you have 6 tab types and 4 sections types, so there is a few different combinations that could work.
- Field labels disappearing?: if you have longer field labels you can change the amount of space used to display them by editing the field label in pixels of the section it is in. the max amount is 250
The Dynamics CRM platform has easily configurable forms and fields that allow each business to design them according to their needs. Go ahead and use these tips to make your CRM forms a little more stylish!