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 Chuck SchaefferImproving the Microsoft CRM User Experience

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Here are several usability aids that will improve your Microsoft Dynamics CRM user experience.

  • Configure the CRM software to deliver information to users when they want it instead of requiring them to go fetch it. This can be user defined via subscriptions in Dynamics CRM or Yammer, or via configuration of email notifications using workflows.
  • Filter Lookup fields to simplify data selection. By default, when performing a search from a new Lookup field, Microsoft Dynamics CRM defaults the first view and no filter. Filtering the data based on use case or context will simplify and accelerate data selection. For example, if you insert a new Contact field on the Account form, it may improve the user experience to filter the Lookup view to only contacts related to the account instead of displaying every Contact in the system. Or when selecting an Account, if you have multiple Account types, you may want to apply a filter to the Lookup field to display only certain account types. By creating and designating views and filters to every new Lookup field, you will improve the user experience.
  • Display tooltip or hover-over text to give fields more information or specific instruction to users. Most CRM systems use Alt Text for caption and image descriptions. In Microsoft CRM you open the form in the Form Editor, select the field to edit and enter the field’s tooltip in the Description box. One caution though, try not to exceed 64 characters.
  • Avoid clicks that pop up new browsers. Because of the way Microsoft CRM has evolved, the application still has a tendency to use modeless pop-up pages. Launching multiple browsers with each displaying different parts of the application breaks process navigation, loses key navigational features such as the Back button, confuses users and degrades the user experience. This practice should be avoided.
  • Consider a custom design theme to support your company or brand. This can include inserting your logo or modifying the application color palette in the customization tools (e.g. Settings – Customizations – Themes). These changes are supported in both the Dynamics CRM web forms and Dynamics CRM for Outlook. You can create multiple themes, but only one can be published as the default theme.
  • Use CRM templates for correspondence (emails and letters), documents (i.e. proposals) and reports. This will save users a lot of time and deliver more consistent communications and information.
  • Defining tab key sequencing is extremely helpful for heads-down data entry users, but not easy to accomplish in Dynamics CRM. The CRM software defaults tab order from top to bottom and then by column from left to right (up to 3 columns). The easy way to modify tab order is to place fields in top to bottom sequence, however, this doesn't work if your form moves left to right or the fields are not sequential. To customize this function, you will need to apply javascript with the tabIndex property. This attribute is an integer that moves the tab key sequence from the lowest value to the highest. It would be nice if you could do this with PBL (Portable Business Language), but that's not yet a reality.
  • Apply consistent use of Heading type faces and content styles for headings, titles and sub-titles to improve readability. Unfortunately, Microsoft does not offer font controls, so if you create forms that would benefit with progressive styles, you will need to apply javascript. To do this, go to Customization – Form – Form Properties – and open the dialog box with OnLoad or OnSave events. This will open the detail properties dialog box where you can enter the javascript that will be called when the event is triggered (i.e. crmForm.all.accountnumber_c.innerHTML = "<font type='calibri'>).
  • Use global option sets wherever possible. Option sets define the list values displayed in dropdown fields or as picklists in the Advanced Find function. Global option sets centralize list values that can be propagated to multiple entities. This function can be a real time saver and keep field values consistent regardless of where those fields are displayed.
  • Type ahead / autocomplete is another feature that accelerates data entry and has become commonplace for SMS users. Unfortunately, Microsoft CRM doesn't support type ahead, however, using javascript or a snippet you can create a lookup script which links to entities and forms with lookup field values. It's not as clean as your smartphone text messaging but it works.
  • Use masked data entry controls to simplify and standardize data entry. These controls automatically format the data appearance. In Microsoft CRM, you have some options at Customizations, such as defining a Data Type = Single Line of Text and a Format type = email, phone, URL or ticker symbol.
  • Minimize the use of applets and javascript with Business Rules and PBL wherever possible in order to more easily absorb new software releases. That said, Business Rules and PBL are still young and not nearly as extensible as javascript so there may be many times when you don't have a lot of choice.
  • Be sure to enable other user preferences such as time zone, default work hours and email preferences at the Set Personal Options page.
  • For mobile CRM user experience, leverage Dynamics CRM fluid forms for tablets and mobile devices. This technology is slightly different from other CRM software apps that use liquid design to automatically scale browsers to form factors. Fluid forms adjust CRM pages to the size and shape of the user's device, regardless of browser.
  • Dynamics mobile CRM uses the same SiteMap as the web app to render the navigation bar. That doesn't make much sense as mobile apps should only display a subset of the web app. You can remove entities from display by going to the entity record and unchecking the "Enable for mobile" checkbox.
  • When creating mobile apps or simply modifying existing forms for mobile, be sure to test for ubiquitous browser support. Browser behaviors vary and some tweaking will be necessary.
  • When using Microsoft APIs with mobile apps, use only a single API call per screen. Also design the API to allow variable return data, so that the heavy lifting can be done on the server side. End


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