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Form Do's and Don'ts

What Works Well and What Missteps to Avoid when building surveys forms and note forms in Compyle



  • Consider how you will need to report on the data before you start the form
  • Ask for input from the people who work with that data 
  • Try it out for yourself
  • Look for overlapping forms to combine when similar information is collected in multiple places
  • Set aside time every few months to listen to your users, gather input about forms/data needs, and improve your forms
  • Look for new features and functionality in upgrades. 
  • Reach out to suggest new features and field types.


  • Do: Use option fields instead of short answer text fields whenever possible. You can add "Other" as an option for greater flexibility. 
    • Why: easier for your users to select what they need
    • Why: better for reporting because short answer fields don't pull into analytics
  • Do: Add sections to organize your form fields
    • Why: easier for your users to work through a section at a time
    • Why: makes form logic rules simpler to set up and test
  • Do: Choose the field type that best matches the information you are tracking
    • Why: formatting is based on the field type, and you will be able to get cleaner data in
    • Why: field types help users know what kind of information you are looking for
    • Why: certain field types have added functionality, like url fields display a link to the website address.
    • Why: numeric fields and numeric values for option fields can be used in analytics, but short text answer and paragraph fields cannot be.
  • Do: Use numeric fields and numeric values for options fields whenever possible
    • Why: simplify calculations and aggregating data
    • Why: can feed into custom calculation fields on the form
  • Do: Create description fields that will display well on different screen sizes
    • Why: make the forms accessible to users on big and small devices will help reduce barriers to gathering information



General Guidelines

  • If data is worth capturing, it's worth capturing well. 
  • If information will not be used to support service delivery, program measurement, or performance management, you may not need to collect it.
  • Balance ease of reporting with ease of data entry.
  • How you collect information determines what you can do with the data.
  • A little organization and forethought goes a long way.

Avoid These

  • Don't: Name multiple fields on the same form the exact same thing

    • Why: It makes it harder to be certain which field you are using in rules, calculations, and exports

  • Don't: Use short answer when you need to report on the answers
    • Why: short answer and paragraph fields are not available in calculations. They only appear in survey form instance reports and in outcomes tab summaries


  • Don't: Use short answer when you what the answers will likely be
    • Why: a set of standardized options will be easier to report on, and the short answer fields are not available for use in calculations


  • Don't: Use checkbox or multi-select for questions with a single answer
    • Why: checkbox fields always accept multiple options. Multi-select dropdowns always accept multiple options. 
    • Why: If someone can choose both "yes" and "no", they might.


  • Don't: Use single select dropdown, likert scale, or radio button when multiple answers should be allowed per person (Which vs What; Any vs The)
    • Why: Radio buttons, likert scales, and single select dropdown only accept a single answer.


  • Don't: add an extra Date field to survey forms or note type forms to capture the date of the survey or note.
    • Why: The date is automatically captured for survey forms and note type forms.
      • Survey forms will use the survey instance start date for assigning response records to a reporting period.
      • Note type forms will use the built-in Date of Note field to assign the note record to a note type instance and reporting period. The Date of Note can be edited on brand new records but not once the note has been saved.


  • Don't: Use short answer fields for comment fields where you would like responses longer than a word or two

    • Why: Short answer fields are only a single line tall. This discourages longer remarks and makes it hard for users to see what they have entered if they go past a sentence or two.


  • Don't:  Use decimal for # of persons unless it is an average
    • Why: People are whole number units rather than fractions.


  • Don't: Use only text options for a numeric scale or weighted scale
    • Why: assigning numeric values will allow you to build calculations into the form, use the field in formulas in analytics, and give you layers summaries to work with.


  • Don't: Use a multi-select with numeric values in a calculation unless you want the average of the chosen options

    • Why: having a single record with options like 1,3,4, 8 makes it harder to interpret the information.
    • Why: when a multi-select dropdown or checkbox with numeric values is used in a calculation field formula, the system uses an average of the selected options in calculations


  • Don't: Use time spent or time fields for values you need to sum or average 

    • Why: Time fields and time spent fields cannot be used in calculation fields and in analytics. 


  • Don't: Capture the same information in multiple places
    • Why: this makes it much harder to report on the information because it has to come from multiple forms or be combined from multiple fields on the same form
    • Why:  the same participant or organization could have conflicting entries for the same data point if it is captured in multiple forms or multiple fields.