10 posts categorized "Formstack"

02/20/2019

11 Steps to Membership Management Success - Create Your Website

Step 5 - Create Your Website
Step 5 - Create Your Website

 

Now that you’ve selected a theme and created a few page templates, you can use start to create your organization’s website pages.

Based on several Wild Apricot customers we have worked with, we recommend making pages in parallel with the master file import process. Setting up access control for website pages depends on the database configuration that is defined during database configuration and populated during the master file import, so it is good idea to work on this step and the import together.  This is where the rubber hits the road and you can see how the website interacts with the Wild Apricot database closely.

Page Template Management

If you want to reassign a page template to one or more pages, you’ll need to do this individually for each page – so wait until you have your page templates set up, before starting to create additional pages based on existing page templates.

The most common way to make page templates is to duplicate existing page templates you are happy with and make alterations to the duplicate page templates for a specific purpose such as a section of pages. A good way to start to design your website is to first create your top-level pages and one sub-page, assigning the appropriate page template to the new pages.

We have found a popular approach is to have a home page template, one standard template for all public pages and one or more members’ only page templates used for content relevant to members.

Populate All the Pages

We suggest mapping out your website's information architecture in Excel or in a diagram before you start designing the website. The diagram below illustrates a simple website information architecture.

Information Architecture

Here are some guidelines for organizing your pages:

  • A Wild Apricot page can be configured to be viewed by certain audiences: everyone (public), for members only or for Wild Apricot administrators only.
  • Pages can also be configured so that they are included — or not — in the primary navigation menu of the website.
  • If a page is configured to be “not in menu,” it can still be linked to from another page's content. This is a powerful way to simplify the menu system and help visitors navigate the website without a deep navigation system which could confuse visitors.
  • There are also  system pages that support various transactions and website interactions. They can be redesigned as well and all use a page template. Don’t forget them as many visitors will end up on a system page at least once every visit, for example when logging into the website!

Several tips for writing for the web

Overhauling your website no doubt will mean lots of writing and editing, either to create new pages or to revise or even rewrite your existing pages. Here are a few important considerations as you edit:

What voice do you use to address site visitors?

  • Is the writing interesting and engaging … or will their eyes start to glaze over while they look for another link to click?
  • Speaking of links: are they prominent and easy to find, with a consistent placement on each page?
  • Does the site use  friendly tone of voice that speaks directly to the reader, written in the first and second person? Words like “we,” “us,” “our,” “you” and “your” are almost always preferred on organizations that are smaller.

Is it clear what visitors can do on your website?

  • Can new and repeat visitors understand how to login to your website, renew their membership or register for an event?
  • Are your marketing “calls to action” clear? Pages to support specific actions need clear instructions and buttons or links.

Is the language direct and active?

  • Website copy should be mostly shorter sentences and paragraphs, with scannable headlines and sections. You can also use point-form lists to break down information.


Remember, effective websites inform and encourage action. People will more often be on your site to learn, engage and do something.

Wild Apricot Gadgets: the key to good page design

Placing gadgets on a page or page template is the key technique to inform your audience and help them interact with your organization.

Wild Apricot offers 33 useful and powerful gadgets that are used to compose pages and page templates. There are 5 categories of gadgets in the system, and they are listed below in order of frequency of use:

  • Content
  • Membership
  • Navigation
  • e-Commerce
  • Community

The lists below are not exhaustive, but these are the gadgets that we tend to used most often in site design.

Content Gadgets
Content gadget

Most commonly used gadget for formatted text, images, audio, video or a button.

Slideshow gadget

An interactive photo slideshow with optional links to pages.

Upcoming events gadget

Displays a list of upcoming events that have been configured in the Events module

 

Membership Gadgets
Membership application gadget

A form to help prospective members apply to become active members

Member directory gadget

An interactive member directory for the public or members

 

Navigation Gadgets

Menu gadget

A dynamic navigation menu that includes all menus in pages automatically.

Secondary menu gadget

A configurable, static menu that helps visitors navigate to any pages.

 

e-Commerce Gadgets
Catalog gadget

Displays an online store for physical and digital goods and services

Donation form gadget

A configurable form to collect donations from visitors and members

 

Community Gadgets
Discussion forum gadget

Enables visitors and members to have interactive, threaded conversations on the website

Subscription form gadget

A form to collect email addresses for a newsletter or email mailing list

Polls, Elections and Surveys

Conduct research with your membership base

Need a custom form?

Collecting information in a form (like a grant application or a job posting) is currently not possible in Wild Apricot. We use software as a service form builders to create custom forms to enable custom data collection and storage of submissions.

Tip: At NewPath Consulting we use Formstack as a tool to:

  • add dynamic forms to collect arbitrary data including file uploads
  • design surveys, grant applications and custom processes
  • accomplish a lot of what Wild Apricot cannot do out of the box

An example can be an online grant application or a complex event registration that has lots of conditional logic (fields collected only when other fields fit a specific criterion).

Files and documents can also be linked into pages and accessed by the public or by members only. You can store files in your Wild Apricot website and make files available for download including Acrobat PDF files, Microsoft Office documents, rich media files like videos and compressed zip files.

How do you publish events?

Publishing events is one of the most powerful modules in Wild Apricot. Learn how and more in the next article in this series.

Read the next chapter: Building Events, Advanced Searches and SEO

 

10/19/2017

Formstack new feature: Date-based calculations and conditional logic

image from support.formstack.com

The Formstack Date/Time field can now be used with conditional logic. Formstack has also introduced the capability to use Date/Time field in calculations to evaluate the number of days, months or years between two dates on a form. This could be very useful to determine time spans to calculate for example number of days you wish to book for a hotel.

Formstack has updated a few support documents to help with the new features:

  • Date/Time Field Overview - In the Date/Time field you can now disable selecting a date past a certain date in the future.
  • Date/Time Field Calculations - You can now create calculations using Date/Time fields. This is useful if you need to calculate the number of days between two dates entered into your form or someone's age given their birthdate.
  • Validating Age With Date/Time field - Do you want only people over a certain age to fill out your form? This is possible with date field calculations. Here's a step by step walk-through on how to validate age on your form.
  • Date Field Logic - You can now create conditional logic rules using a Date/Time field on your form. This gives you the option to show/hide specific fields based on a date, date range, or period of time.

09/05/2017

How and When to Choose the Right Software Solutions For Your Business

Digital Workplace Infographic Final - reduced

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on digital workplace transformation. Part 1 and Part 2 are also available on this website.

There’s a problem with how most small businesses choose their technology solutions, and we see it far too often. First the owner or manager purchases a product that solves a particular perceived pain or problem. Then they try to make it work within their existing business model and organizational structure. We feel that this approach is backwards, and your business ends up not getting the real value from the tools you choose. It’s not the technology that small businesses need first, but rather core knowledge and capabilities in the areas of business, market, content marketing, design/usability and implementation.

Ideally, you should know the key activities that will expand and sustain your business, and the key resources you’ll need to execute those key activities. In the Business Model Canvas (the one-page business model generator that we use and recommend), these two elements appear on the left-hand side of the model or the “backstage” area of your business.

From working with so many small businesses over the years, we have become adept at helping businesses identify their key activities and resources (business objectives), as well as the technology solutions that can support those activities implemented by your key resources. In the following infographic, we’ve organized our favourite technology tools and services around six different business objectives (the concentric circles), building up from the five core knowledge areas in the middle.

NewPath Consulting Technology Stack

The productivity tools in the infographic are indicated by their company logos, and are arranged in concentric circles according to the business objective(s) of each tool. These circles radiate from the core capabilities and also correlate to the size and maturity level of an organization. We believe that businesses of every size can benefit from assessing their core capabilities and having a well-curated technology “stack,” a combination of software services used by staff and customers to achieve various business objectives.

For more details about NewPath’s technology “stack” (combination of software services) and the services we use and recommend the most, please see our post about software integration.

The five core capability areas are:

  1. Business - clarifying your business model and business objectives, and your professional ethics and legal practices such as contracting and intellectual property.
  2. Market - understanding the customer and what motivates them to engage, and defining your value proposition and the 4 Ps of marketing (product, price, promotion, place).
  3. Design and usability - creating the necessary online environment to deliver value to customers, which includes branding, graphic design, security and privacy.
  4. Implementation - developing or acquiring technical knowledge and fundamental capabilities of digital workplace software services
  5. Content marketing - combining capabilities 1 through 4 to publish and distribute content that will help you find and retain customers and business partners

For reference, here is the full set of subtopics for each of the five core capabilities:

Web Management Professional Body of Knowledge
Web Management Professional Body of Knowledge c/o Web Management Institute

 

Of course, you may be thinking, how can I be awesome at all of these core capabilities?!? Be assured, no single business owner can be equally good at all these areas of knowledge. In fact, MBA (Masters of Business Administration) graduates focus on only two of these core capabilities - Business and Marketing. Many companies are started by a ‘technician’ who does not likely have many business or marketing skills, or a business whiz who doesn’t have the implementation skills to deliver on the value proposition by performing the core service offering.

What you need is to invest in getting help to bridge the gaps, yet we rarely see businesses doing this well. We get it; it’s intimidating. But there are resources out there to help you learn, and people you can hire to help. In fact, we hope you’ll let us help you.

Going outwards from the centre of the diagram we focus on the “orbits” that surround the core knowledge areas. We believe the software tools you choose must be aligned with the maturity of your business - how long you’ve been in business, how many people work for you, and your revenue.

We begin, as most small businesses do, with the content and experience band - a website and lead generation program. Unfortunately, most organizations stop here, but as your company grows you will need more tools and services. The next band is advertising and promotion, where you start making more direct and outbound offers.

As your business grows, you might want to start selling online, and you’ll need services that support your commerce and sales process. As we go further out, you’ll need to build awareness with a larger audience through social media and relationship building.

When you grow to the data layer, specifically if you are a larger organization, this is where you’ll need things like analytics, invoice and billing, and data aggregation services. At the management band, you will need human resource management products, training and project management tools that have  a broader scope.

What’s important is not just which products you choose, but what business objectives each tool serves and how they work together. As your organization grows, you should be adopting these products based on your needs and level of maturity. The more mature your business, the more tools you will have to adopt and integrate. Yet if you start loading up on software too soon, you’ll create chaos and confusion while wasting money and time.

The customer is the most important thing

We believe the most important thing to any small business is its customer, and that today’s online customer requires that you have the high quality digital workplace we have outlined here. From that solid foundation you can get more customers, deliver more value, to then be able to charge more and earn more revenue.

This article concludes our blog post series on digital transformation for small businesses. First we covered the need for building a digital workplace. Then we revealed the importance of creating and evaluating your business model, a must for digital transformation. In this article we addressed how to choose the right software for your business, based on NewPath's own software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology stack and how we’ve used these tools to help our customers grow.

Click here to download a free one-page visual summary of our digital transformation model.

The important question now is what do YOU think is the most important thing to your business? If you’re still juggling time and money as your top priorities, instead of your customer, we invite you to make this business paradigm shift to focusing on your customers.

NewPath’s SMB experts are here to help you choose, implement and use new technology in order to benefit your business and find you more time. Business Success Plans start at $239.00/month for all-inclusive technology, service and support with no contracts or start-up fees. Contact us today for your free consultation!

04/05/2017

Software Overload? Integration Brings Relief

There are almost 4,000 cloud-based marketing services on the market today (UPDATE: As of May 2017, there are now over 5,000 martech services), many of which are free or cost only a few dollars a month. With such a low barrier to entry, many small and medium-sized business owners are tempted to keep adding more and more tools and services until they’re too overwhelmed to use any of them effectively.

NewPath's guiding principle is to choose the software services just right for your business size and maturity, rather than buying into a monolithic "do all" software platform. Our two primary evaluation criteria are quite simple: Can the core value of the tool be demonstrated in 30 minutes and does the underlying service vendor have outstanding support?

The trick is to get your software products to work together, integrating them to effectively talk to each other. You will get the best benefit when your tools work together to accomplish business requirements that each cannot accomplish on its own.  

For example, any online form has the ability to notify you that someone has filled it out, which generally happens via email. But imagine the possibilities within an integrated set of tools, e.g., as soon as a form is submitted, a business process is activated depending on the fields filled out, an automated response is sent to the website visitor, and a new account is created in your customer database. A specific employee is assigned to the account and receives follow-up reminders to stay in touch. This is all possible when cloud services are properly set up with your business’s model and requirements in mind.

Some SaaS (software as a service) products integrate better than others, with built-in functionality that business users can apply with a bit of time and effort, with no coding required or the need to reinvent the wheel.

NewPath Consulting has evaluated a wide range of SaaS products over the past four years for their effectiveness, ease of use and interoperability. In the infographic below, we’ve highlighted our favourites, and demonstrated how they correspond with five core capabilities of all businesses, outlined in the centre of the diagram:

NewPath Consulting SMB Martech Stack

  1. Business - business modeling and operational planning
  2. Market - understanding the customer and what motivates them to engage
  3. Design and usability - creating the necessary environment to deliver value to customers
  4. Implementation - understanding the fundamental capabilities of cloud-based tools and services
  5. Content marketing - combining capabilities 1 through 4 to find and retain customers and business partners in the digital realm

Each business must acquire these capabilities over time as they mature and grow. These capabilities are required to understand and validate your business objectives, your sales and marketing techniques, and which tools to use and when.

At NewPath we believe that as a business becomes more capable and experienced at these five core knowledge areas, they also become ready to transform into a digital workplace. 

For example, most businesses need an online presence (ie a website or mobile app) but not every business requires a formal customer relationship management (CRM) tool since many don’t employ large groups of outbound sales people. If you’re just starting out and don’t have many prospects or customers, then a shared cloud-based spreadsheet with some basic analytics can be as effective and has a lower cost and complexity than a CRM.

The productivity tools in the infographic above are indicated by their company logos, and are arranged in concentric circles according to the business objective(s) of each tool. These circles radiate from the core capabilities and also correlate to the size and maturity level of an organization. We believe that businesses of every size can benefit from assessing their core capabilities and having a well-curated technology “stack,” a combination of software services used by staff and customers to achieve various business objectives.

Tool set #1: Content and experience

The first objective every business is to develop a modern and interactive website on a capable content management platform. NewPath supports the easy-to-use yet fully extensible WordPress platform. WordPress is best in class for template-based sites, with extensibility via plugins and themes to handle any requirement you may need. Couple this with the easy yet powerful form builder Formstack to enable your prospects and customers to interact with you 24/7. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Serving the customer.”

Tool set #2: Advertising and promotion

The tools NewPath recommends are AppSheet, Wild Apricot and Mad Mimi. AppSheet allows you to build mobile apps from spreadsheets, using your own data to deliver a branded experience to your customers. It's easy, free, and there is no coding involved. Wild Apricot is a cloud-based service that includes website management, membership renewals, email marketing and donations for membership-based organizations (nonprofits, clubs and associations). Mad Mimi is NewPath’s choice for email marketing. Read more about why Mad Mimi is still our choice after all these years. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Attracting the customer.”

Currently, at NewPath we don’t recommend any online advertising ad platforms. We recognize this is a controversial position, yet content marketing simply provides a better return on investment for most SMBs over online ads. Here’s some proof based on our own experience with content marketing and spending on ads. Online ads can work, though, for certain product sectors, to boost an already well-known brand, or for local advertising of local services.

Tool set #3: Commerce and sales

For commerce and sales, NewPath recommends PayPal, WooCommerce and Stripe. Everyone’s heard of PayPal and the service remains easy to use for secure online payment processing. WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to set up an online store to sell directly from your website - why pay for an ecommerce platform when you can have more power for less cost? Stripe makes it even easier to do business online by offering recurring and one-time credit card payment processing. Stripe checks out the transaction, makes sure it is legitimate, and if all looks good, they send the money automatically over to your business bank account, without the need for a merchant account. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Making it easy sell and buy services and products.”

Tool set #4: Social and relationships

Social media and the cultivation of relationships is an important step in the sales cycle. Some aspects can be automated and other parts must be handled directly, but in each scenario, business acumen and technology can help. At NewPath Consulting we use the following social and relationship management tools: 

  • Slack.com is our internal communications and collaboration tool, which we use as an alternative to inter-office emails so everyone remains on the same page and informed of internal projects and delivery of customer service.
  • Highrise is our customer and partner database that keeps us abreast of all interactions between our sales and marketing team and our prospects and customers, and allows us to schedule touchpoints and keep notes and to-dos in order. Highrise integrates seamlessly with your email inbox, important since after phone calls, email is the primary communication channel between staff and customers.
  • Zoom is our recommended service for video meetings, which can be recorded and scheduled ahead of time for up to 50 participants via phone and video.
  • Appointlet helps us automate the process of scheduling meetings between team members, prospective customers, and customers, eliminating the back and forth of trying to find a mutually available time in people’s busy schedules. 
  • Hootsuite lets us monitor social media and schedule new and popular content when the intended audience is most likely to be online.

The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Staying organized while keeping in touch with prospects and customers.”

Tool set #5: Data & Management

As an organization matures to the point where it needs to effectively manage a lot of data and personnel, NewPath uses and recommends these products to use analytical insights to drive business decisions:

  • The Business Model Canvas helps a business owner clarify and iterate a business model that may not be complete or functional.
  • Stitch Data, WebHooks, Zapier and SuperMetrics help integrate and automate data integration between various services.
  • FreshBooks is a cloud-based accounting tool that keeps track of invoices, expenses and taxes, and offers recurring billing. And your business will get paid faster when you can deliver invoices electronically and get paid electronically!
  • Google Analytics allows you to track website traffic, events and the return on investment of marketing efforts.
  • LastPass provides secure password management for all staff.
  • GoDaddy offers secure, reliable domain name management and managed WordPress hosting.
  • Safari Books online and Lynda.com provide ongoing business education for your staff and customers.
  • G Suite from Google allows for cloud storage and instant, collaborative editing of documents, illustrations and spreadsheets.

Do you have a mismatched collection of productivity tools that aren’t working together to help your business grow? Step back and look at the big picture of how your business is evolving, which core capabilities you have and which you need to build, and which set of services will help you reach your business goals.

10/04/2016

Math With Formstack - Calculating Number of Cabins

Heidi from Camp Anderson, one of our long time customers, posed a very interesting question recently:

"We rent cabins in our camp. A cabin can fit 10 people. We'd like a field that calculates a total price based on the number of cabins required. Each cabin costs $75 to rent."

This calculation is also known as a step-function in mathematics. From 1-10 people, we want Formstack to calculate 1 cabin, for 11-20 we need 2 cabins and so on.

Normally you could do this by just by dividing the number of people by 10 and then  use a rounding function to round down the number of cabins we need, but since Formstack does not have rounding functions we need to try something different. We only have basic math for Formstack calculation functions as you may remember. 

Here's what we came up with:

Instead of dividing simply by 10 we take advantage of Formstack's rounding capabilities. Calculation fields round down or up to the nearest number of decimal places setting for a number field. If the number of decimal places is set to 0, your form will round to the nearest integer. But what we need to do is essentially force Formstack to round up in all cases. Adding 0.49 to the division formula makes the result bump up to the nearest integer effectively getting the right number of cabins in all cases.

 

Formstack rounding solution

 

 

 

06/03/2016

"Run Your Small Business With Online Forms" — Formstack May 19, 2016 Webinar Questions and Answers

Introduction and overview

Alex sirota formstack webinar
How to Run Your Small Business With Online Forms
webinar recording

Robin Macrae
LinkedIn, Twitter, Zoom

On May 19, 2016, Alex Sirota presented an in-depth case study of a NewPath Consulting customer that has employed a sophisticated Formstack form-based application to generate substantial revenue and sustain the business. In doing so, he highlighted the Formstack features that enable you to manage business data and processes and demonstrated that one of the largest benefits of online forms:  helping you manage your business processes online and transform your business into a digital workplace.
Alex Sirota image.
The event was a huge success with over 450 registrations, and a recording of the webinar is available online.

At the end of the webinar, there were over 20 questions in the Q&A, and not all of them could be adequately covered. As promised, this blog post will recap the questions and answers including a more detailed walk-through of the more complex questions.

The Q&As are organized in terms of common themes:

  1. Basic functionality
  2. Calculating fields
  3. Prepopulated (prefilled) fields
  4. Integrations | general
  5. Integrations | Google
  6. Security and access
  7. Subscription plans and features

Alex Sirota answered the questions in the webinar and in emails to those submitting them. Robin Macrae extracted the content, edited it for clarity and readability, organized it into categories and rewrote and supplemented the content where appropriate. The text is ~3,000 words.

Do you need help with a Formstack form or application? As Formstack consultants, we have become very experienced with the ways Formstack can enhance and drive your sales, marketing and operational efforts. Book a time for a no-charge half-hour consultation with a Formstack guru, Alex Sirota.

Continue reading ""Run Your Small Business With Online Forms" — Formstack May 19, 2016 Webinar Questions and Answers" »

08/12/2015

A new Formstack Infographic: Lead Generation Tips

Some new excellent tips on designing forms, based on best practices on 12,000 forms hosted at Formstack.

Constructing the Perfect Lead Gen Form
Constructing the Perfect Lead Gen Form

12/03/2014

Excellent Webinar on Modern Forms with a Focus on Higher Education

mStoner recently held a webinar on their experience with Formstack as a form builder in higher education. The webinar featured Chris Lucas, VP of Business Development at Formstack. Many terrific insights and examples were shared. One important observation: forms must be considered as first class content on the web along side text, graphics, video and audio. To date PDFs have been the best way to distribute forms, but that is changing now with tools like Formstack. The webinar featured a case study with some great return on investment.

Take a look a the webinar and slide deck below. We think they are spot on!

Webinar Video:

 

Slide Deck:

 

07/08/2014

Formstack Reports Short Downtime

Most SaaS vendors don't notify staff with this much transparency. Kudos to Formstack for being direct and clear, telling everyone what happened.

If you believe you have lost a transaction on your website please let us know on our support system and we will check it out.

12/13/2013

Thank you to Formstack for the amazing support in 2013!

NewPath Consulting has been guest-blogging on Formstack's blog. We are super delighted to be closely tied with one of the small business web's shining stars: Formstack.com.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the Formstack crew from chilly, -21C with windchill Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

image from media.salemwebnetwork.com

Here are the articles for your viewing pleasure. 

http://blog.formstack.com/2013/prospects-buying/

http://blog.formstack.com/2013/communicate-sales-team/

http://blog.formstack.com/2013/formstack-changed-internet-clients/