Posted by:Nithin Rao August 26th, 2014

This post is the concluding part in a series (read earlier posts  1234567 ,8 ,9 ,10 ,11 and12 here) on building forms in mobile apps.

Forms have been around for ages. But the edge that mobility brought in, has enormously improvised the practice of capturing information thereby leading to better ways of engaging and delighting users! A slew of third party devices offering API’s for mobile app integration and the inherent native hardware features of mobile devices themselves, have made the process of capturing inputs seamless and smart – to the extent, that at times there is no input effort needed from the user at all!

In this article, we look at some ways to make your app smart when it comes to capturing information!

Health and fitness apps: Here’s the new mantra!

Whether it is Heart Rate, Blood Glucose or Blood Pressure you are trying to capture, stop asking the user to give them to you. A lot of health devices now support mobile integration in ways that would simply let your app read incoming values of the heart rate or the blood glucose.  Apart from saving the user from having to input these values, you also earn the advantage of gaining accurate and real-time information.

With iOS 8’s Healthkit,  consolidation of all health information onto a single platform will soon become the in-thing and your app could just read data off Healthkit or push data to it.

Digital signatures

Gone are the days when you would ask a customer to wield a pen and sign on your paper-based form or register. Digital signatures where the user just uses touch to sign on your screen, are now in vogue. The finger becomes the pen and your app provides the canvas that captures the signature – all legality duly taken care of. A lot of banks and firms have adopted this practice to make the whole process of registering a customer much more hassle-free than before.

Geo-location

If your user has allowed you to track their geo-location, make the best use of it. Fill in the location fields in your form, with pre-populated text based on the geo-location information that you have. For example, you need to know the user’s Country. Chances are that though the person’s current location may not be her address, the country is not going to change by the time she gets home!  You could also use geo-location to pre-populate ‘what’s nearby’ information. Another example of using geo-location is to track a person’s workout jog and calculate the miles covered at the end of it. The possibilities are many.

Not just a phone but a scanner too!

With mobile devices, QR code scanning reached an altogether new level.  There are several creative ways you can use this QR code scanning capability. Ask customers to download your app and fill in their identification forms by simply scanning a QR code on the ID card or reservation slip you gave them at the time of registration. They will love you for it!  One scan of the QR code will be enough to tell you who the person is and get them signed up in seconds!

Recognize and authenticate the new-gen way!

Fingerprint recognition, iris recognition and image recognition are all new ways to identify and authenticate app users. It is also faster than having to type in a username and/or password each time. Besides not having to worry about conventional password hacking mechanisms. Though this is yet to pick up in a big way, technology is improving by the minute and alternate recognition techniques are slated to make a mark in the future.

Annotations – make your own poster!

Selfies and photo-editing are a fad now. So why not capitalize on this trend to have users fill up your forms in a creative and fun way. Let’s say you have an auction house app or a reselling platform app. Users can simply click photos of the object they are trying to sell and highlight its features with annotations!  Your mobile app should allow them to do that with simple annotation provisions such as say for example, circling a part of the photo and tagging a caption to it! Fun, easy and far better than filling in several text fields about the highlights of the object you are trying to sell!

On the other end, people who are potential buyers would also appreciate handy annotations that give them quick information – at a glance – about the product .

Accelerometer – capturing the nuances of mobility!

This native device feature can be used in several ways to capture nuances of a person’s movement based on how the mobile device is positioned at different points in time.  Apart from the most basic usage of the accelerometer to detect device and screen orientation, use the accelerometer to give you information about the user’s speed, step count, elevation etc. A must-have for fitness apps but other apps could use it too.

Let users voice themselves!

Imagine a form-filling experience where all you need to do is talk into your phone and not move a finger! Well, that’s exactly what created a buzz with Google’s NexusOne.  Use voice input for your forms when you need well-known (and not person-unique) words as inputs – as this makes it easier for the app to recognize what the user is saying and fill the form accordingly. Using voice input for something like a name is not a very good idea because across geographies and languages, names can have varying degrees of phonetic complexity and the app may not capture the word accurately.

The good old camera

Whether it is the ease of app users uploading their pictures or the convenience of clicking one on-the-go, the mobile device camera is here to stay. Add to that, the QR code it elegantly scans. Ensure that your apps exploit the camera feature to give your users the added benefit of convenience at their fingertips. Camera usage is also hugely popular with enterprise apps used by field executives out on a mission to sign up new customers for which a face photo is necessary. When asking app users to use the camera, help them capture the object properly by providing an on-screen frame that best defines the kind of photo you want. Also, give them a preview and the ability to edit and annotate, if applicable.

Those were few of the many ways in which mobile forms can be made to have the extra edge that today’s technology commands. Have you tried any novel ways to harness technology for your mobile app? We’d love to know. So long!

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