Welcome to this month’s issue of the Consultant’s Corner, which centers around helping organizations promote their brand through customized forms, exploring the multitude of customization options available through Laserfiche. Cities Digital’s Consultant, Rob McCluskey, System Architect addresses a variety of questions surrounding the details of Forms Customization.
A form that looks good, is functional and accurately represents an organization is critical when it comes to creating customized forms. Laserfiche Forms Designer is a versatile utility loaded with features, determining how organizations are customizing forms a good place to begin the conversation with Rob.
What are the top features of the Forms Designer and how are organizations using the features to customize Laserfiche Forms?
Custom Themes - The easiest and most commonly used method to customize the appearance of a form is “to create a custom theme”, Rob explains that “organizations utilize logos, swatches, and design language.” Sample form with Custom Theme.
Custom CSS – Cascading Style Sheets, which for those unfamiliar with the acronym is a plain text file format used for formatting content within forms, is another way organizations are customizing. Rob tells us that, “since the default approach to layout in Forms is to keep forms responsive, looking good and functioning correctly on both mobile devices and workstations, the Designer does not accommodate horizontal layout options out-of-the-box. Organizations that know in advance that their users and submitters will only be working on a computer can make an informed decision to leverage CSS to layout fields side-by-side, etc. However, it’s always important to consider maintainability and how such decisions could end up causing friction with business process developments in the future.”
Sample form with custom buttons and even a signature field.
What are the recommended best practices for creating custom Laserfiche Forms?
When implementing customizations for various components it is important to consider best practices. Rob shares that the, “recommended best practices for creating custom forms are to do as much customization as possible using Themes and limit other customizations to critical items. Organizations sometimes run into issues when they get fixated on a particular aesthetic or layout that, while it may make sense in a particular context, does not usually translate well onto mobile devices and creates issues when upgrading the system at a later date.”
Once a custom form is created, is there a recommended process for making modifications to the form?
In the interest of keeping form documentation consistent, is it possible to create a template for Forms and what recommendations do you have for this process?
Considering all of the information that forms contain duplicating efforts for each individual form could get tedious. Rob assures us that there is a way to configure generic “template” processes that can be quickly tailored to more specific needs, helping to minimize duplication of work. He says, “many organizations need to collect payment for different purposes—for example, a city might need to collect payments for building permits and parking tickets. A generic “Template – Payments” Forms process can be created that contains fields common to both processes. Once this process is created, it can be copied, renamed (perhaps “BLDG – Permit Payments” or “PD – Parking Ticket Payments”), and configured with additional fields specific to the needs of each payment collection type. The only recommendation for creating template processes is to be sure not to publish them and/or grant access to non-admin users.”
Can you explain how dynamic information can be incorporated into forms, for example pulling information in from a data-set to populate a portion of the form?
Rob describes through some examples how dynamic information can be incorporated into a form. “Consider the ‘PD – Parking Ticket Payments’ process mentioned above. Perhaps this Forms server also contains a process called ‘PD – Parking Ticket Issuance’ that officers use to generate parking tickets. Data from a submitted ‘PD – Parking Ticket Issuance’ form could be used to populate an official Word or PDF document that is saved to the repository as a read-only PDF and emailed to the offender for their records. This data could also be pushed into a ‘Parking Tickets’ database table for use with the ‘PD – Parking Ticket Payments’ form. The offender could access the ‘PD – Parking Ticket Payments’ form via a URL in the email they received with the attached parking ticket. They could enter their driver’s license number, date of birth, and any other relevant data, after which Forms would perform a lookup against the ‘Parking Tickets’ database table to display any pertinent information to the offender, as well as provide the payment amount for their ticket.
Another use might be connecting a database table containing licensed contractor information to the ‘BLDG – Permit Payments’ form, so licensed contractors could select their license number from a drop-down list, which would automatically populate the form with their contact information.”
What options are available for creating custom calculations within a form?
Are there any caveats to customizing forms that people should be aware of?
Are there limitations to the size or type of graphics that can be incorporated into a form?
When it comes to graphics, he shares, “the only real limitation is usability—the larger an image file is, the longer the form will take to load, so in general, it’s best to keep graphical elements as small as possible.”
If an organization has several custom forms what considerations do they need to make if contemplating an upgrade?
Whether you are looking into Laserfiche Forms, considering the options or already using Forms in some capacity, there are so many different ways to add customization. The Forms Designer offers tools to help promote your brand and tailor your forms to meet the needs of the organization. The Cities Digital Consulting Team is always ready to help you design your forms, optimize efficiency and innovate solutions. Contact us for help with your next project.