This blog is written for decision makers on UI projects, typically architects or software leads as well as front-end software developers. The topic is broadly applicable to different user interaction paradigms (Web, Mobile App, Chat, etc.).
This blog is the first part of a two-part series. To read part two, click here.
Writing forms is a very common activity. Simple forms are easy to handle with most frameworks; however, dynamic forms are difficult to develop and maintain, and the difficulty typically increases exponentially.
What do we mean by dynamic forms? These are forms in which:
When the number of questions is large, we typically see that the total number of paths increases (usually exponentially) and overwhelms the development team. Programing all of these in code puts an enormous burden on the front-end development and testing teams, and it is difficult to maintain and to scale up.
Additionally, it leads to difficulties reusing code across different use cases and user interaction paradigms.
To compound these problems, the business wants the questions to be changed relatively frequently. We wish we could give the business analysts who understand the use cases some tools so that they can maintain the questionnaires without code changes in the web front end and the mobile app. Additionally, for the mobile app, we would want a solution where we do not even need to request the user to update the app on their devices for any changes to the questionnaires.
To give you a concrete example, it’s typical for a travel insurance claim to have hundreds of different conditions and different paths in the process of collecting all the data for a claim. In such use cases, many questions need to be asked:
The list goes on and on. Below is a visual representation of how the flow quickly becomes complex. From this, we can start to grasp the complexity such use cases bring (and this diagram only scratches the surface):
One elegant solution to these problems is to use a rule system to define the model for the dynamic form independently of how it is rendered in the front-end UI and device. The model specifies what questions to ask at each step of the process and what paths the flow of questions take. It can specify simple to arbitrarily complex validation rules. It’s a need we are seeing in many industries that have complex processes—to name a few: Healthcare, finance, education, state agencies and insurance.
This is not new. Various model/view design patterns have been used in front end development. So, the core design concept is very much familiar to UI teams.
What is new is the use of a rule system to define the model. This enables a user to apply simple to complex logic to conditionally specify what controls to render, what validations to apply and what flow to follow. Corticon.js as a low-code, easy-to-use rules system allows business analysts familiar with the problem domain to create and, most importantly, maintain the model.
The separation of concerns from the UI code responsible from rendering the questionnaire has multiple benefits:
In conclusion, if you are dealing with complex or dynamic forms, consider using Corticon.js to model what questions to ask, what flow to take the user along and what validations to set. You will save lots of development time up front and you will also get more agility maintaining these forms. Check our open source solution at Github Dynamic Forms.
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