Blog Title Image - And I would write 500 words...

And I would write 500 words…

Our last blog from Bob, former Implementation Consultant at Fluent Technology, now taking time out to travel and see the world!

And I would write 500 more, just to be the man who wrote 1000 words to meet your maximum word limit. It’s a pity Christmas is over as I believe I have the makings of a number 1 right there!

Excuse me, I believe I have gone a bit mad. Please read on.

A few weeks back I was having a discussion with a client whilst we were building an application form. The application was based on an outdated version and was being enhanced and improved during its transition from the old system to Flexier pastures. We were trying to establish the best mechanisms for capturing all of the required information and I noticed one phrase kept cropping up “I will need to check how applicants usually respond to that question.”  After hearing the phrase a few times I began to ask myself, who are we building this application form for? The applicants? The assessors? The Grant Managers? The diplomatic answer is that it’s built for applicants, with questions designed to draw out the most appropriate information to help assessors assess, and grant managers…manage. The real answer is… more often than not, just the applicants. Sacrificing consistency in responses and quality of reports for open ended, write as you please, questions.

Sometimes application forms are a little too applicant friendly. Questions configured whilst being mindful that requesting a particular format, file type, or word limit may confuse, offend, or even worse, upset an applicant. This type of paranoia can lead to poor form design, without any thought given to how the application responses can be utilised further down the line.

I recall a client telling me once that they had mistakenly set a word limit of 500 words for a question that captured the location of a project, and as a result were receiving a high volume of applications with extremely wordy addresses, 500 wordy (The blog opening is starting to make a bit more sense now I hope!). If you used a textbox to capture a date of birth question, I would not be surprised if every so often a response such as “It was cold and snowy, that Tuesday morning in January ’89 when the nurses rejoiced…”  slipped through the net.

If you are a Grant Officer, Grant Manager, Super User, Flexpert, or any other person tasked with building an online form, remember this, it’s your system, it’s your form. You know how you would like to see the data presented, you decide how it is provided. Mould the questions to yield the responses that will help you the most. The applicants are applying for something they want, in most cases a grant, they should be prepared to jump through a few hoops. Besides, in my experience, if there’s money down there, people will wade through s**t to get their greasy mitts on it. I know I would…

 

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