TOC: When to Configure a Custom Field | Features of Custom Fields | Configuring a Custom Field
Configuring Custom Fields
When to Configure a Custom Field
When an organization needs to capture information about contacts that is not covered by the built-in fields, Metrix allows the Metrix Administrator to configure up to 14 custom fields. It is important to carefully consider when to use a custom field as opposed to an Interaction, which is very flexible and can be used to capture more information about contacts. For more information, see Understanding and Planning Interactions.
Custom fields are most useful for:
- Data that is static or unchanging (e.g. eye color, mother's maiden name, first date of contact)
- Data for which no historical record is desired
Interactions are more appropriate for:
- Data for which a historical record is helpful (e.g. start and end dates)
- Data that applies to only a subset of contacts
- Data that has multiple occurrences (e.g. attendance at a workshop, membership on committees)
Seven of these custom fields are simple text boxes, and seven are drop-down lists containing a set of values chosen by the Metrix Administrator or users at the organization. Two of the 14 fields, one text and one drop-down list, are on the Contact Overview form. The remaining 12 custom fields appear on the Demographics form. Metrix allows you to display only the custom fields you have chosen to use and to control the data types and formats of text fields and the values in drop-down lists.
Figure: Custom Fields on the Contact Overview Form
Figure: Custom Fields on the Demographics Form
Note: Custom fields appear in preset, fixed locations. For example, a custom field created in Profile 1 will always appear in the first position, and a custom field created in Profile 3 will always appear in the third position, even if there is no custom field defined for Profile 2.
To reiterate, custom fields should be used for storing static information. For information that changes over time, especially when those changes need to be tracked; clusters of related data with multiple fields; and data that apply only to a few contacts, Interactions should be used. This is a very important distinction, and it is important to realize that while custom fields are relatively easy to implement, they can prove to be limiting as data needs grow.
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Features of Custom Fields
Custom fields have several useful features:
- Labels. You can label custom fields as you choose (within a 20-character limit).
- Input masks. An input mask defines what kind of data can be entered into a custom field. For instance, if a custom field is configured as "Graduation Date," an input mask can be assigned to force the user to enter data of a particular type. This prevents users from entering "last year," for example, when they should enter an actual date, such as "6/24/2004".
- Display or hide fields. Once you configure a custom field, you can choose to remove it from display without actually deleting the field from your Metrix installation. For instance, if you create the custom field "Graduation Date" and use it for a time, but then decide to remove it, you can choose to remove this field from the form without losing the graduation dates you have already captured. If you change your mind again, you can make the field re-appear on the form by simply clicking a check box.
- Control values in drop-down lists. You can edit pre-determined drop-down list values at any time. In addition, you can limit any list to pre-determined values only, or allow users to add new values.
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Configuring a Custom Field
- Plan your custom fields as part of the requirements-gathering process, and agree on the format and content of all custom fields before implementing them. (See Gathering Data Requirements) Make sure to determine:
- Will the custom field appear on the Contact Overview or the Contact Demographics form?
- What is the nature of the data that will be captured by the custom field: text, numeric, date/time, etc.?
- Will the field be an open text field, or will the value be chosen from a drop-down list? If it's a drop-down list, prepare or obtain a list of these values before continuing.
- Does the data that will be entered into the field change over time? Do changes or trends in that data need to be tracked? Does the data involve multiple related fields? Does the data relate only to a subset of your contacts? If so, a custom Interaction is more appropriate than a custom field.
- Open Metrix as you normally would.
- Click Customize in the Navigation Menu, then select Custom Fields.
The list of existing custom fields will be displayed.
Note: The first two custom fields listed (at the top of the form) are on the Contact Overview form. The other twelve are for customizing the Contacts Demographics form. Of these, the first six are text fields. The rest are drop-down lists.
Figure: Setting-up Custom Fields
- To configure a text field:
- To display this custom field on the form, be sure to uncheck the Hide field check box. If you want to hide it until some later time, check this box.
- Repeat steps 4-5 for each of your custom fields. Each custom field is saved as you configure it; there is no "Save" button.
To see your new custom fields in action, click Contacts from the Navigation Menu, then select the Overview or Demographics, depending on which custom fields you have added. The new custom fields will appear in the appropriate location. If you don't see them, go back to the Setup Custom Fields form and be sure that you have unchecked the Hide Field checkbox.
You can edit existing custom fields anytime. Return to the Setup Custom Fields form and make changes as necessary.
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