In the first Elements of Style post regarding how to customize Dynamics 365 forms, I talked about developing your own style and preferences in form design so that you have one or more design approaches in your mental toolkit to make your form work more efficient. I shared some of my preferences that, I hope anyway, promote functionality over form but result in a clean form that meets requirements.
In this follow-up post, I thought I would share an example of an Opportunity form where Business Process Flow is used and that reflects some of what I covered in the first post. Note that these reflect my preferences and the intent is to get you thinking about what you can do with your forms, not to hold these up as ‘best practice’. Each scenario you run across will have different requirements and expectations.
Focus, Focus, Focus
As I said in the first post, I like to present the most critical info, the info that provides the best ‘picture-at-a-glance’ for the record, at the top of the form body. Don’t make the user go searching. You can see, I’ve pushed the Social Pane over to the right side – easy to focus on when I want to see that content and moving it out of the middle column prevents it from breaking up my review of the other critical info presented in the fields. I can also see the modified/created info quickly by glancing at the footer. Where possible I avoid having ‘orphan’ fields for a section spill past the bottom of the ‘page’ — but, knowing that users have various screen sizes, etc., that’s hard to accomplish many times.
The definition of ‘good’ is in the eye of the user but I think I can get a pretty good picture of this Opp from just this page of the form. I tend to try to use the 2 columns of ‘field’ data and 1 column of Social Pane on the ‘major’ forms when I can. Obviously, using 4 or more columns can be done but watch out for fields that get squeezed down too much for folks with smaller monitors and/or who might use lower screen resolutions.
Quick Navigation = Happier User
Once you get past the top of the form body by breaking things into logically organized tabs and sections it makes it easier for the users to navigate, which means they don’t waste time finding what they need. This eliminates frustration and complaints, and improves user adoption.
Especially for tabs that contain sub-grids or info from related entities, configure the form so the tabs are collapsed and let the user click to open them unless it is a tab that is referred to or data maintained there often. Forms will load more quickly with collapsed tabs.
Incorporating the Business Process Flow into Tabs and Sections
This is an idea that not everyone may agree with, but for this client, it makes sense. The client has a business process for Opportunities that involves several stages. We have some key fields for each stage up under the ribbon, but there is more info that is gathered during each stage that needs to be in the form body.
To display fields not in the ribbon but which are related to the Business Process Flow, I’ve created 2 tabs, each tab containing 3 sections. Each section represents a stage and that’s where the relevant additional info for the stage is displayed. When the user is working on the focus fields in the ribbon, they also know there are more fields to deal with located in a single section in the body for that stage. They can quickly access the fields without having to look around the form and ‘cherry-pick’. For users who are doing more looking at the record than maintaining it, finding the right info should be easy once they get understand the tab titles and organization of the data. While it’s true that the best format for data entry may not match the best format for data consumption, I can argue that arranging data in logical groups trumps cherry-picking most of the time.
Some folks might also choose to have a copy of the Business Process Flow ribbon fields displayed down in the body of the form when customizing Dynamics 365 forms, so for entry purposes the ribbon area provides focus but for data review/consumption, the body of the form has all the data.
What’s the Takeaway?
Whether it’s forms or anything else related to customizing Dynamics 365 forms or Dynamics CRM forms – strive for success by solving real business problems, in the simplest manner, using out-of-the-box functionality as much as possible, remembering who you are serving (users) and letting your creativity shine.