Tony Robbins has said, “Change is inevitable. Progress is optional.” So true, Tony. So true… but with one exception. When it comes to your database, progress is not optional. Any changes in the functioning of your contact database should be helping, not hurting, your workday.
Continual progress and improvements are key reasons why we love working with CiviCRM. Since CiviCRM is open source and used by over 10,000 organizations worldwide, there is ceaseless momentum for developing better and new functionality. That momentum, combined with the brainpower of a sea of developers, means that an end user can get new tricks and tools in their belt faster than what could be reasonably expected from subscription-based software.
A new extension released at the beginning of March 2018 illustrates this continual progress.
Only See What Matters
It’s probable that many of the core fields your team relies on every day for communications and basic reporting in CiviCRM are “out-of-the-box” fields. That means they are fields that just come with the system. In this case, we’re talking about communication preference information and basic demographic fields.
These fields are exceptionally useful when creating smart or basic groups. For example, you can create a smart group of all contacts in your system who do not want to receive emails and then exclude them from your CiviCRM mailings. Or you can create a smart group for all contacts that have a birthday in this calendar month. With that, you can consistently send a birthday e-greeting at the first of each month with minimal effort and maximum heart.
Thanks to the new “Collapse Comms and Demographics” extension, you keep all the power of grouping and segmentation but get back prime real estate in your contact records by having those fieldsets collapsed. Better still, you get a visual summary of the information, like your contact’s gender and key communication restrictions. Let’s see it in action.
Here is how the top summary of a contact record currently appears (in version 4.7.27):
Thanks to the extension, here is that same contact and their information, but with a revised layout. See how “Communication Preferences” and “Demographics” are now collapsed.
Better still, the extension brings with it graphic icons to quickly communicate information within both fieldsets. In the screenshot above, you can quickly see that this contact is a 31-year-old female. These icons automatically display based on your selections in the Demographics fieldset.
Graphic icons work similarly for communication preferences. Let’s suppose we have a contact who never wants to be contacted.
We can edit their preferences inline and restrict all communication methods. Upon saving, we now see those selections represented graphically.
More reasonably, perhaps we just want to mark that a contact should not be called. That would look like:
Or, if they opt out of receiving bulk email, it would appear as:
You may wonder, What good is this? Why get so excited about collapsed fieldsets and icons? Well, because science is cool! Let me explain.
Neuroscientists from MIT have found that the human brain can process entire images in as little as 13 milliseconds. That’s as fast as you think. The researchers explained that this ability “to identify images seen so briefly may help the brain as it decides where to focus the eyes, which dart from point to point in brief movements called fixations about three times per second. Deciding where to move the eyes can take 100 to 140 milliseconds, so very high-speed understanding must occur before that.”
With the extension, you’re basically getting what you need to know about your contacts, nothing more and nothing less. It’s all there if you want to see the details. And, since the information is communicated graphically, your brain understands it more quickly than it would if you saw the same information in text.
This change also puts your custom contact fields just that much closer to the top of each contact’s summary view. It’s still not perfect (see what’s coming down the pike that we’re even more excited about), but represents a solid, small improvement. And that’s what we want; to use technology to improve your workday and, by extension, the world.