App design - best practices

During creating an application, it is worth remembering the following tips that will make your work easier and make the application clear and easier to change.

1. Name sections well

Always rename a section to something that will point to what is in it. It is easier to use section names that we associate with their content in formulas than "section1" or "section5".

Example:

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2. Use aliases

Give cells aliases and use aliases instead of the cell address in formulas or action parameters. For example, below, instead of using the addresses of section2.A and section2.B columns in the formula, you can set the aliases CURRENCY_CODE and COURSE in the properties of these columns and use their aliases, which makes the formula much clearer and more understandable.

 

Before:

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After:

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3. Use aliases and KPIs to search for app instances

Use thoughtful aliases with "Show on grid view" turned on and KPIs in your app. Thanks to this, later you will be able to find the needed app instance much easier by KPI in the Inbox view and by Aliases in the table view.

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4. Describe and comment

Describe and comment more complex formulas and actions during creating the application. This will help the user who after you edits the definition of that application to understand it. In the hidden sections you can describe what is happening in this section in the next cell. Example:

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An even better way is to write comments to the given cell or column in section properties. Comments are visible only in the app designer, so you can comment on both visible and hidden sections.

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5. Keep order in the application

Always delete unnecessary sections, columns and cells. Thanks to this, you will have more order in the application and you and the person who will edit the application definition after you will not wonder what a given cell or section does.

 

6. Write formulas only once

Never write the same formula twice. A much better solution is to create a hidden spreadsheet. In its cell, enter the given formula, and then in the places where you need this formula, enter = formula cell. In this way, we minimize the chance of an error and it will be possible to correct a wrong formula only once.

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7. Use indirect calculations

If you are writing a long and complicated formula, rather than writing it all at once, it is better to break it down into smaller formulas that you can type into a hidden support spreadsheet. Smaller formulas will be calculated in the worksheet cells, and you can use only the results from that worksheet for the final formula. Thanks to this, the formula is clearer and easier to understand what it calculates.

 

Before:

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After:

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8. Use as little lookup formula as possible

Use as little lookup and lookupvalue as possible. You can find out about when to use lookup and when to use lookupvalue here here.

 

9. Only use the report section in apps that don't have workflow states

When there is a report section in the app, a large amount of data can be downloaded to the app, so that after being saved, such an app will take up a lot of space and will open slowly. Use the report section only in applications without workflow states (an application may contain an action from the start state to itself).

 

10. Scale images to a lower resolution

Always use the image scaling option in image section. For example, a photo of a receipt from a cell phone may be 5MB, and after rescaling it may be 100KB, it is 50 times less and the photo quality will be the same.

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11. Use containers and tabs

Use containers and tabs to create a comfortable and clean user interface. Additionally, you can set the visibility for a container that will affect all sections in that container. This way, you can put all auxiliary sections into one container and show it only for selected users.

 

12. Give super editors the ability to see hidden auxiliary sections

If you have hidden auxiliary sections with key calculations in the app, it is worth creating a section with a checkbox visible only to super editors, which can turn on and off the visibility of these hidden sections. This is useful when the user reports an error in the app and then with one click the super editor will be able to preview the calculations in hidden sections.

 

Before:

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After:

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13. Give permission to the app to groups

Try to give workflow permissions to user groups. The group can be modified (add, remove users) while the application is in use.

 

14. Use a super editor instead of adding users to each state

As a super editor, you can specify a group of people who will be able to enter each instance and state of the app even when they are not set up as its editors. This is a group of people who can fix the app when something goes wrong.

 

15. Use meaningful task message and states name

Use the task message option in the workflow state properties. Give such task messages and names of states so that the person who will be the editor of a given state knows what to do from the "inbox" view.

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16. Always fill the caption and purpose of the app in the options tab

Whenever you create an application, in addition to the name, add a caption and purpose for the application. The caption is visible to the user and may contain spaces and special characters, unlike the name of the app. The caption and purpose should be such that the user can find out what the application is for from the workspace view.

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17. Keep parameters in external lists and tables

If you have parameters that are identical for each instance and are needed for calculations and actions in app, then instead of keeping them in a auxiliary section, keep them in external lists or tables and pull them out of the application using lookup. Thanks to this, when you need to change these parameters, you will not have to change it in the app and activate it again, but you will be able to change it in a given table or list.

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