Conditional Formatting on radio buttons

Conditional Formatting on radio buttons

Conditional Formatting is an often used technique in FileMaker. It allows to distinquish types of data very easily. One case where it is often used is to review a list of invoices. By conditional formatting you can easily set the text color of invoices that are late in red, the ones that are paid in green, the ones that are about to be send out in light grey, ..The FileMaker community has been implementing this in very innovative ways, even to hide or reveal elements by setting the color of an object to the color of the background.

User Experience

The main goal of Conditional Formatting should be to improve the User Experience (UX). While often FileMaker is a data driven application, it also should make it easy to interpret these sets of data. The example of the colored invoices is one way to use it. It can also be applied to handle errors in data input. If a required field is empty, a red box around that field can make it very obvious to the user that something is missing.

“Don’t make the user think” is an often used phrase in User Experience. By using colours and formatting we state things very easy to the user: he doesn’t have to read anything, he understands the meaning of ‘red’ as being ‘bad’ and ‘green’ being ‘good’. It avoids the use of many error messages or confirmation on actions.

Since FileMaker 14 the Radio button set and checkbox set can also be formatted this way. It might seem like a little detail in the release notes, but UX-developers where very enthousiastic about it. Often checkboxes are used to set a parameter or a confirmation for something. Radio buttons are used to make a choice, for instance. But as they are defined as simple fields like the rest of them, users don’t always see important states of them.

Example

Let’s say we have a checkbox for a field “Has unpaid invoices”. A nightly script runs trough our database to check every account and if invoices are still unpaid after due date, we set this marker. If a Sales agent wants to check the status of an account, he must be able to see this easily. Some prefer to use red texts as messages at the top, but very soon you will end up with a lot of messages. If the checkbox uses the default black X, it might easily be overseen. If, however, we have this in an obvious and clear red, it wil be easily detected by the Sales Agent.

Radio button sets can be used in a similar way. Let’s say we have our accountants going through the accounts on a regular basis. If a client isn’t very loyal in his payments, he can reduce his credit score. The company has a rule that a client has to have a rectain risk score to be able to order large amounts of products. By stating this score in default black, a Sales agent might not see it and the risk involved. If we use Conditional Formatting to show that a bad credit score is in the red area, the agent will notice it without interpreting the data or scores.

Conclusion

FileMaker 14 has a lot of new tools to improve the User Experience. As certified developers we try to think ahead of our clients. Even improvements this small often make a big change for them.

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