Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 2 – Choice Questions & Conditional Logic

Questions and input fields are the heart of every form. In the previous article, we started digging in on the do’s and don’ts of creating good form questions. Now we’re going to take a closer look at a particular set of field types – choice questions.

The Power of Choice

There’s a lot to be said for choice questions. Choosing from a predetermined set of options is fast for the user. They don’t have to imagine what the possible answers might be, and they don’t have to spend their time typing.

If choice questions are good for the user, they’re awesome for the form owner and the database. They provide structured data that’s easy to aggregate, analyze and report on. They can also be used to trigger automation or conditional logic. As always, think about why you’re asking the question as you decide on field types, wording, and context.

Field Types for Choice Questions in Jira

There are multiple options for creating choice questions: Jira offers:

  • Checkboxes
  • Radio buttons
  • Select lists (single, multiple and cascading)
  • Picker fields (date, date and time, group(s), project, user(s), version(s).

ProForma includes:

  • Check boxes,
  • Radio buttons
  • Dropdown boxes
  • Pickers (date, time, date and time and user(s); ProForma also lets you create your own user picker fields by creating data connections that populate choice lists from an external source.

Determining which field type to use should be based on:

  • Whether you want users to select one option only (radio buttons, dropdown, single choice select list), or more than one option (checkboxes, multiple choice select lists).
  • Layout and available space on the form/screen – Radio buttons and checkboxes are fastest for users because they can see all of the choices at once, no extra clicks required. However, if you’re option list is excessively long, dropdown boxes let you save space on the screen.

Since choice questions already limit the user, when choosing field types it’s good practice to use the least restrictive option. Radio buttons, single select lists and dropdown boxes mean the user can only select one option. If there’s any possibility that the user would want to select more than one option, use check boxes or a multiple select list.


I use Chrome for work and Firefox for personal use, but the question only allows me to select one. The question should be narrowed (“Which browser do you use most often for work?”) or should be a check box field type to allow the user to select more than one option.

Things to Consider When Creating Choice Questions

  • Make Sure Everyone Can Respond
    The limitation of choice questions, is that they are closed.  While this may be helpful to the form owner, it can be frustrating for the user. What if what they really want to choose isn’t listed as an option? One advantage of using ProForma is that it allows you to include an “Other” option, with an adjoining text field on your choice lists. Depending on how your question is phrased, it may be appropriate to offer options such as “I don’t know,” or “Not applicable”. The important thing is to make sure that your choices offer every user the opportunity to provide an honest answer.
  • Structure Your Rating Scales
    Choice questions are often formatted as rating scales (strongly agree > strongly disagree, etc.) to measure user’s opinions or satisfaction. Carefully consider if you want an even or odd number of options. An odd number of options gives the user a chance to be neutral, while an even number forces them to give an opinion. (If you’re not going to make the user give you an opinion, is it really worth including the question?)
    • Label each point in your scale with words, so users don’t have to take the extra mental step of translating numbers into another meaning. Scales should not be too large, and the increment (in meaning) between each point on a scale should be equal.
    • Points on a rating scale can either go from “lowest” to “highest” or vice versa. Scales are frequently structured with the most positive response listed first because users ofter select the first option they see. The important thing is to be consistent throughout your form.
  • Avoid Double-Barreled Questions
    Since the purpose of a form is to obtain structured data, it’s important that each question asks only one thing. This is especially true for choice questions. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a bunch of easy-to-categorize answers and have no idea what they refer to. Customer satisfaction surveys that ask you to agree or disagree with statements like, “The agent I spoke to was friendly and knowledgeable,“  miss the mark. What if the agent I spoke to was kind, but clueless?
  • When a Choice Really Isn’t a Choice
    Sometimes we use choice questions when we’re really not offering the user a choice. The user has to say yes if they want to continue the process. In these cases, a checkbox is the correct field type since we are not excluding other options. In a previous article, I said that if you want users to read your instructions, you should avoid big blocks of text. The opposite is also true: If you want your users not to read something, make it long and full of jargon. John Oliver does a great job of describing how effective this is.

Choice Architecture

As with all form questions, you’ll want to use concise and unambiguous language. But creating good choice questions requires additional considerations. How you frame your questions can impact how users respond. This is called choice architecture. You may want to use it your advantage, or you may want to try to limit your influence to get a more “pure” response from your users. 

The Influence of Defaults

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether or not to include defaults. Defaults save time for the user. They also nudge the user in a certain direction. Users may perceive the default options as being recommended (after all, that’s what everyone else is choosing). In some cases, the default option may even be labeled as recommended. Even when logic doesn’t tell us to leave the default, inertia often does. We’re happy to avoid making a decision.

The most frequently cited examples of this mechanism at work are the differences in organ donation rates (cited in the first article of this series) add image and the use of “opting in” to get employees to contribute to retirement savings account. Parting with your organs, or your money, is a serious decision. Yet the evidence shows that many of us are happy to simply follow the default’s lead.

If you feel really confident that you know what the vast majority of users would want, use a default. If you want to encourage your users to make a certain choice, use a default. If you want to get more impartial data from your users, don’t use a default. Be cautious about offering a default for a required field. If the field is important enough to be required, you probably want your users to consider their answers, which they are less likely to do if a default is provided. 

Choice Order Changes Results

Even if you don’t use a default, some bias will be built into your choice questions simply because you have to list the options in some kind of order. Inundated with information, our brains have learned to scan, which means we’ll pay more attention to the first and the last item in a list.  In most cases, it’s sufficient to just put your choice options in some kind of logical order (lowest to highest, alphabetical, etc.). This makes it easy for the user to find the option they’re looking for. However, if you want to truly minimize the influence of the first/last bias, you need to randomize your choice options.

How Framing & Decoy Affects Impact Responses

How your question is perceived will be impacted by the words you choose. Here’s a example that frequently comes up when buying an airline ticket:

The words have been chosen carefully. Including the price of the flight reminds the user of the investment they’ve already made and makes the price of the insurance seem insignificant by comparison. The word “risk” also pushes the users towards buying the insurance.

In addition to wording, visual cues can be used to nudge a user to a certain choice.  Here’s an example from Atlassian.

The Cloud option has an eye-catching button, while Server is a simple text link. Cloud is also the option on the left, where we usually find buttons like Save and Publish, as opposed to the right where we often see Cancel.

Another common practice is to make an item seem more appealing in comparison with the other choices on the list. This strategy is commonly seen on eCommerce sites.  Personali™ offers this example from BestBuy.com.  Compared to the $1,000 camera, the $45 memory card seems cheap.  However, if the user were to search the site for memory cards, they’d find equivalent options at a much lower price.


Image courtesy of Personali

It should be noted that, as with the examples of organ donation and employee retirement contributions, these kinds of strategies can be used for the user’s benefit, or – as with the examples from Best Buy and Atlassian – to push a product. The important thing is to be aware that when you create choice questions, you can (and frequently are) building in a bias. Therefore, you need to structure and word your choice questions carefully.

Conditional Logic

Along with being fast and easy for the user, and producing nice clean data for you, choice questions allow you to use conditional logic. Conditional logic allows you to dynamically show or hide form questions based on a user’s response to a previous question. This allows you to:

  • Reduce cognitive overload for the user – the form looks less cluttered, less overwhelming.
  • Shorten the user’s path to completion – the user only sees the parts of the form that are relevant to them. There’s no confusion about which parts they are supposed to fill out.
  • Use one form for multiple, similar use cases.
  • Accommodate edge cases.

Let’s look at a few examples.

An HR department is using Jira Service Desk to manage Personnel Action Notifications.

When the form first loads it looks
like this:
Other questions appear depending on what items need to be changed.

Conditional logic is one of the biggest advantages electronic forms have over paper forms. It’s also one of the best things you can do to make your forms more user-friendly – especially customer-facing forms on the JSD portal.

The ability to create forms in Jira, without dozens of custom fields or complex configurations, makes Jira and JSD a viable options for non-tech teams.

In our next article, we’ll look at things you should consider when helping those teams (or any team) bring their existing forms into Jira.

  • Why Form Design in Jira Matters  –  How you design your forms will impact the quality of data you receive, and much more!
  • Layout and Flow: Creating User-Friendly Forms in Jira – Form layout affects completion rates and user frustration. We’ll discuss the right way to do it.
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 1 – How do you choose the right words, field types and validation levels? This article will dig into the nitty gritty of creating good form questions. 
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 2 – Choice questions are great for collecting structured data. We’ll look at the options for choice questions and discuss ways to influence, or mitigated influence on the user.
  • Things to think about when converting forms in Jira – Bringing a process into Jira for the first time? Don’t just copy forms straight across. This is a chance to make improvements.
  • Efficient Jira Screens and Jira Service Desk Request Forms – Jira screens and JSD request forms aren’t the same. Here’s how you can make each one work for its audience.
  • Tips for Creating good forms/screens in Jira – Learn how you can leverage Jira features like tabs, workflow transitions and icons to create better forms and screens.
  • Form Design Best Practices: What you can and can’t do in Jira – Now that we know what good form design means, we’ll hone in on which practices can be applied to Jira and Jira Service Desk
  • Use cases – We’ll also include a series of use cases illustrating how using forms expands what you can do in Jira.
  • Form audit – Finally, we’ll take a bad form and transform it to an awesome, user-friendly, data collecting machine.

¿Cómo entrevistar al equipo que está detrás de un nuevo proyecto de Jira?

Read in English | More articles in Spanish

Un nuevo proyecto de Jira tiene varios elementos que se deben considerar, entre ellos, una charla con el team lead arrojará datos importantes que te ayudarán en tu trabajo con los proyectos en Jira; en este post original de Rachel Wright te presentamos las mejores prácticas al momento de entrevistar al equipo tras un nuevo proyecto de Jira.

Continue reading “¿Cómo entrevistar al equipo que está detrás de un nuevo proyecto de Jira?”

Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 1

Questions, and the input fields that collect their answers, are the heart of every form. Getting your questions right, will mean getting your data right. Well designed questions also minimize frustration for the user. You’ll need to decide what field types to use, what context to provide, how to word your question and how much validation to include. Think about why you’re including each question. What data are you hoping to get? Then consider the user’s point of view. How should you create the question in order to make it easy for them to respond with the data you’re looking for?

Open vs Closed

Questions come in two general varieties, open and closed. Open questions (text fields) let the user type in what they want to tell you. Closed questions (check boxes, combo boxes, pickers and radio buttons, select lists) let the user choose an answer from options you provide.

They each have their advantages. Closed questions are good for users because they are easier to interpret and quick to fill out. They’re good for you because data comes into your database in nice categories, with consistent formatting. Data from closed questions is easy to aggregate and report on.

Open questions are more work for the user. They have to interpret what you’re asking, decide what they want to say, and then type it in.  However, open questions ensure that the user has a chance to say what they want to say. The user may be looking for an opportunity to tell you something you didn’t think to ask. While open questions don’t make for tidy reports, they allow users to provide information which can lead to disruption, innovation and continuous improvement. If your forms use purely closed questions, you may force the user and a service agent to comment back and forth in order to get important details.

Finding the right balance of open and closed questions will depend on the purpose of your form. Consider including at least one open question on your form. This could be an overview question up front – like the Description field in Jira – or an optional “Comments” field at the end. You can also mitigate the restrictiveness of closed questions by including an “Other” option. (We’ll dive deeper into closed questions in the next article.)

Asking Good Questions

Teachers are fond of saying that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. I beg to differ. Stupid questions are questions that don’t ask what you want to know, or questions that try to ask too many things at once.

Whenever I call my credit card company I immediately get a follow-up email that asks:

The first part of the question indicates that they want to know if I’m happy with the customer service I received, but the second part of the question asks something completely different. The question is either:

  • Using the wrong metric to measure customer service;
  • Or, trying to ask two different things at once.

Personally, I would never choose or recommend a credit card based solely on customer service. Other factors – interest rates, cash back and annual fees play a big role.  Since I’m middle-aged my friends and family members have already found credit cards that work for them. Giving an honest answer to the question might reflect badly on a perfectly competent agent who took my call. The result is that, unless I received really bad service, I don’t answer the question.

Resist the temptation to use double-barreled questions as a strategy for keeping your forms short. Yes, you want to be brief. That’s why you’re only asking questions you really need the answers to. But if you lump two questions into one, you won’t know which part the user is answering. The agent and the user will have to exchange comments back and forth to clarify, and you’ll end up taking up more of the user’s time than you would have if you’d just included two questions in the first place.

Language

How you word your questions matters.  Choosing unambiguous wording will mean reduced frustration for your users, and fewer errors in the data you receive. When writing form questions:

  • Know your audience
    The language you use should fit your audience. If your form is for the general public, remember that not everyone has the same literacy level.  Use plain language – short sentences and everyday words.

    What if the general public isn’t your audience? Reading through postings in the Atlassian Community, I notice that many participants are highly technical, but may not be native English speakers. Writing for this audience, I might choose a longer, more formal word that has a latin root (thus recognizable to speakers of other latin-based languages) over a shorter, more common word. It’s all about who you’re creating the form for.

  • Provide context
    Organizing your questions into logical sections will help provide context for the user. Depending on what you’re asking, that may or may not be enough context. Remember that the user doesn’t know what you know.

    Field level help text is a great opportunity to provide more context. Including an example can help the user understand what kind of response you’re looking for.
ProForma for Jira

Rachel Wright provides examples on her Custom Workflow Documentation form.

If you’re asking a question that can seem intrusive, tell the user why you’re asking and how the data will be used. 

Finally, if you’re asking for information the user may not know how to find, help them out. For example, tell them where to find a version number for their software or a serial number for their hardware. You can put this information directly in your field help text, or use your help text to point to another page with detailed instructions.

  • Use neutral words
    If you’re truly trying to get the user’s opinion, then strive for neutral wording. The words you choose can influence the answer, so avoid phrases that indicate what you think the correct answer should be. And if you’re wondering what leading questions look like, grab a political survey put out by a political party.

    You’ll also want to avoid using absolutes – words like all, always, never, etc.  Including an absolute means you will find the exceptions that prove the rules. You can improve your questions by simply deleting those words. 

Getting Text Fields Right

While text fields collect responses to “open” questions, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have any control of the data you receive. Using appropriate field types, formatting and validation will ensure you get data you can use, while still allowing users the flexibility they need. 

Field Size and Type

Text fields are not one size fits all. When choosing the size of your text fields (two options in Jira, three options in ProForma) remember that the size of the field should be proportional to the amount of text you want the user to input.

Text fields also come in many varieties. Along with various sizes (single line, multiple line/paragraph), there are also number fields, email fields, url fields, etc.  These fields have been formatted and validated behind the scenes to ensure that the user can only enter certain kinds of information. Using the correct field type means better data that can be used for other functions later (perform calculations with number questions, export a spreadsheet of email addresses to make a contact list, etc.).

Pattern Matching

You can also create your own text field types using ProForma’s Regex feature. Regex allows you to create text patterns that the user’s input must match.  These can be simple or complex expressions, and are a great way for collecting properly formatted data. Regex patterns are often used for collecting:

  • Account numbers
  • Phone numbers
  • IP addresses
  • Currency amounts
  • References to ISO standards 
  • Serial numbers

Note that you’ll want to tell your users what patterns the field accepts. Use field level help (the Description property in ProForma) to provide instructions and examples.

ProForma for Jira

Validation

Finally, deploying validation rules – such as word/character limits and value limits for number fields – not only ensures clean data, it allows teams to build their business rules into their forms. As above, you can save time and frustration for your users by letting them know, either in the question itself or in the help text, what the limitations are.

Following the advice above will help make your text questions easier for your users to understand and respond to. However, chances are good that most of the fields on your forms will be choice questions, so we’ll look into the best practices for creating choice questions in the next article.

Other articles in this series:

  • Why Form Design in Jira Matters  –  How you design your forms will impact the quality of data you receive, and much more!
  • Layout and Flow: Creating User-Friendly Forms in Jira – Form layout affects completion rates and user frustration. We’ll discuss the right way to do it.
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 1 – How do you choose the right words, field types and validation levels? This article will dig into the nitty gritty of creating good form questions. 
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 2 – Choice questions are great for collecting structured data. We’ll look at the options for choice questions and discuss ways to influence, or mitigated influence on the user.
  • Things to think about when converting forms in Jira – Bringing a process into Jira for the first time? Don’t just copy forms straight across. This is a chance to make improvements.
  • Efficient Jira Screens and Jira Service Desk Request Forms – Jira screens and JSD request forms aren’t the same. Here’s how you can make each one work for its audience.
  • Tips for Creating good forms/screens in Jira – Learn how you can leverage Jira features like tabs, workflow transitions and icons to create better forms and screens.
  • Form Design Best Practices: What you can and can’t do in Jira – Now that we know what good form design means, we’ll hone in on which practices can be applied to Jira and Jira Service Desk
  • Use cases – We’ll also include a series of use cases illustrating how using forms expands what you can do in Jira.
  • Form audit – Finally, we’ll take a bad form and transform it to an awesome, user-friendly, data collecting machine.

Layout and Flow: Creating User-Friendly Forms in Jira

There are two things we know for sure about forms – One: everyone fills out forms, and two: no one likes filling out forms.  With that in mind, your goal in designing the layout of your forms should be to help the user get through the form quickly and easily while providing accurate information.

With multiple options for label placement, help text placement, validation, action buttons and page layout – webforms provide multiple ways to pose questions to users. For the purpose of this article however, we’ll be focusing on Jira forms. We won’t get into the weeds about whether or not your labels should be above or to the left of your input fields, because Jira doesn’t offer options on all of those details.

Instead, we’ll focus on three big principles – minimalism, logical structure, and a clear path to completion – that will ensure your forms (Jira screens or ProForma forms) are as user-friendly as possible. Rather than thinking in terms of what information we need, we will look at the problem from the user’s point of view. Who are your users? What are they trying to achieve by filling out the form?

Let’s get started.

Principle 1: Minimalism

Less is more when it comes to forms. Our brains are subject to cognitive overload. If too much comes at us at once, we’re unable to process it. We don’t have the RAM. So keeping forms decluttered makes it easier for users to complete them.

Reduce the number of questions you ask

The first thing you can do to make sure your forms are as minimal as possible is to prune back the number of questions you ask. To ensure you’re only asking what you really need to know, either start from a blank slate, or – if you’re working from a template – put every question on trial by considering:

  • How is this information used?
  • Is it necessary in order to provide the user with what they want?
  • Do we already have this information somewhere else?
  • Can we use conditional logic to ensure that the questions is only shown to the right users?

If you don’t need the information, don’t ask for it.

Simplify the language of your question

You’ll also want to be minimal in how you ask your questions. We’ll be delving into the details of question types and wording in the next article. For now, suffice it to say that your question labels should be concise. Use just as many words as needed to avoid ambiguity. You’ll also want to be sure that the language you use fits your audience. If the form is for customers, use plain language. If it’s for technical users, you can use more technical language.

Keep the extras to a minimum

Finally, keep visual extras (color, images, etc.) to a minimum.  Color can be a good option for making important things standout, but only if there’s not too much of it. The same is true for icons.  Other than branding, only include images if they help clarify things for the users. Reserve red text for error and validation messages.

Atlassian has been working to reduce cognitive overload when viewing Jira issues…

Jira then…

Jira Server circa 2007

Jira now…

Jira Cloud circa 2019

Make optional questions, optional!

You can still pose optional questions. But if it’s not information you need to have to provide the service, then wait and ask it later. In Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks, Luke Wroblewski cites research indicating that users are more willing to answer optional questions if they’re posed after the initial form has been completed. With ProForma, you can automatically add a supplementary form when the initial form is completed. Alternatively, you can create a customer satisfaction survey in Jira to collect more information (See page 19 of Rachel Wright’s Jira Strategy Admin Workbook for instructions on deploying a minimal customer satisfaction survey in your Jira support project.).

Principle 2: Logical Structure

Now that you’ve decided what needs to be included on your form, you have to decide how to arrange it. 

Your forms will be a lot more user-friendly if you think of them as one side of a conversation, rather than as a way to get info into your database.

Group questions into sections

A conversation usually starts with easy, non-intrusive questions. Questions in a conversation are grouped around larger topics, and they follow each other in a natural sequence. There are also natural breaks when a conversation shifts to a new topic. You can recreate that in your forms by grouping questions into sections, and by putting those sections – and their respective questions – in a logical order. This will provide context, making it easier for the user to understand what you’re asking for.

Keep introductory text to a minimum

Keep initial instructional text at the beginning of your form to a minimum. If it’s a big block of text users won’t read it anyway. Instead, provide general instructions in their corresponding sections, or better yet, use field-level help tips. Keeping the instructions close to the questions they refer to will eliminate confusion for the user.

There’s one important exception to this rule. It’s good to let people know up front what they will need, and if there are any eligibility criteria. Webforms also frequently include a “gateway” page or instruction section at the beginning for this purpose.  Here’s an example:

“What You’ll Need” pages and eligibility pages save users time. 
Image courtesy of Rosenfeld Media

Use Pages, Tabs or Sections

Online forms often use multiple pages to organize the form into manageable parts. While we don’t have this capacity in Jira, you can organize questions onto different tabs. Similarly, ProForma lets you include multiple forms on an issue, making it easy to break up data collection into logical parts.

As above, if your form is embedded in a webpage, you can include a “thank you” page at the end that let’s the user know the form has been successfully submitted, and advises them about the next step in the process.

Principle 3: Clear Path to Completion

Since we know that no one likes to fill out forms, one thing we can do to lessen resistance and procrastination is to make it clear to the user how to get to the end. There are a few strategies you can use to illustrate a clear path to completion:

Consistency 

If your team publishes a lot of different forms, use a consistent style when it comes to format, grouping questions, and the overall structure of your forms. This will make the forms feel familiar, and therefore less intimidating to your users.

Be upfront 

If the user is going to need information that they’re not likely to have in their head, let them know upfront. Having to leave a task in progress to dig up needed info is frustrating for your users. It also provides a great opportunity for the user to abandon the process all together.

Easy to scan 

You can also help users know what to expect by putting section titles in title case. (Section titles are also an item where you may want to use color.) Drawing the eye to section titles makes it easy for users to scan, letting them know what kind of questions to expect.

Vertical alignment 

Finally, unless you’re asking for information that demands to be in a grid (e.g. budgets), keep your input fields in a straight vertical line. This makes it easy for the eye to see how to get to the end of the form. The path to completion is like a literal path – if it’s straight you can see where you’re going. If it’s full a switch backs it’s hard to know where you’re going or when you’ll get there.


“Switch backs” image courtesy of Rosenfeld Media

“Literal path” image courtesy of Rosenfeld Media

Creating a clear path to completion, using a logical structure and being as minimal as possible will make your forms more user-friendly and reduce the time needed to complete them. This will improve the quality of the data you receive. Of course, the real nitty-gritty detail of getting good data depends on asking good questions. We’ll dive into the details of form questions in the next article.

Other articles in this series:

  • Why Form Design in Jira Matters  –  How you design your forms will impact the quality of data you receive, and much more!
  • Layout and Flow: Creating User-Friendly Forms in Jira – Form layout affects completion rates and user frustration. We’ll discuss the right way to do it.
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 1 – How do you choose the right words, field types and validation levels? This article will dig into the nitty gritty of creating good form questions. 
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 2 – Choice questions are great for collecting structured data. We’ll look at the options for choice questions and discuss ways to influence, or mitigated influence on the user.
  • Things to think about when converting forms in Jira – Bringing a process into Jira for the first time? Don’t just copy forms straight across. This is a chance to make improvements.
  • Efficient Jira Screens and Jira Service Desk Request Forms – Jira screens and JSD request forms aren’t the same. Here’s how you can make each one work for its audience.
  • Tips for Creating good forms/screens in Jira – Learn how you can leverage Jira features like tabs, workflow transitions and icons to create better forms and screens.
  • Form Design Best Practices: What you can and can’t do in Jira – Now that we know what good form design means, we’ll hone in on which practices can be applied to Jira and Jira Service Desk
  • Use cases – We’ll also include a series of use cases illustrating how using forms expands what you can do in Jira.
  • Form audit – Finally, we’ll take a bad form and transform it to an awesome, user-friendly, data collecting machine.

Form Design in Jira Matters

Let’s just admit it. Forms aren’t sexy. They aren’t exciting or innovative. Few people would call them fun. They are, however, important and few business tools have proven to be as enduring. 

The move from paper to electronic forms, and then to online forms solved a lot of problems. We no longer have to contend with illegible hand-writing and necessary fields that were left blank. But the advent of online forms also presents a challenge. How can we best use the tools we have – validation, conditional logic, auto-formatting – to truly optimize our forms so that teams get the information they need and users have a painless, possibly even pleasant, experience?

Forms and screens that serve as electronic forms (I’ll be using the terms forms and screens interchangeably) are more than just vehicles for data collection. They are the first step that gets the ball rolling on most business processes. They are also one of the primary ways we interact with our internal and external customers. And they are a mechanism for influencing (whether we want to or not) human behavior. Combining forms with a powerful workflow engine like Jira is a great way to get work done. Ensure that your Jira forms are well-designed and you’ll do more than get work done. You’ll save resources, improve relationships and influence user actions in the right direction.

Your Jira Forms Drive Data Quality

We create forms for collecting data, and the quality of the form will go along way towards determining the quality of the data. With the creation of every issue type and every request type, you are making decisions – which fields to include on which screens, what order to list the fields in, what justifies the creation of a new custom field – that will impact the quality of data you receive. In turn, getting better data will allow you to:

  • Provide better, faster service – Imagine if all of your Jira Service Desk agents could provide one-touch service, receiving all of the information they need on the initial request and responding to the customer to let them know that issue has been resolved. There’s no going back and forth to collect the missing pieces. No digging through comment chains, no trying to parse out multiple data points that have been lumped together in a description field – all of the needed data is there, where agents can find it. Requests move through the queue faster, pleasing customers and allowing agents to focus on higher value work.
  • Refine your processes – We often create our processes to accommodate the limitations of what we know or what our software can do. Jira is super flexible, but configuration can become complex.  Using well-designed forms that embed in Jira issues allows you to reduce the number of issue types (the work of capturing specific pieces of data is shifted from the issue to the form), simplify workflows (use checklists instead of additional statuses or subtasks) and prune back that jungle of Jira custom fields. Your Jira instance becomes less complex,  and your Jira administrator less burdened. Shifting from custom fields to form fields will also improve Jira performance. 
  • In JSD, being able to easily create portal forms tailored to capture the information needed for each request type allows you to better organize your queues, channeling work to the agent best equipped to handle the request.
  • Enhance Compliance – Forms can serve as a record, capturing and preserving data from different sources, at different points in time, enhancing compliance and accountability. A well-designed form will make it easy to provide management with useful reports, and auditors with the information they need. Adding multiple copies of a well-designed form to a Jira issue allows you to see not only the current state of an issue, but also the discoveries that have been made along the way.
  • Improve the Bottom Line – What is the cost of bad data? How much time do service agents, Jira users and customers loose searching for information that’s hard to find, invalid or missing? Include a field to capture a document version number on a form and the agent can glean the data at a glance. Obtaining the same information through a comment can cost hours, as the request sits, waiting for the customer to come back with needed data. Later, when the agent goes to retrieve the information combing through a comment chain can be like going down a rabbit hole. Better forms lead to better productivity.

Forms are the Basis of Relationships

A form can be the start of a beautiful friendship. Or not. When you consider how many business processes start with a user filling a form, it’s amazing that more attention isn’t given to form design as part of managing customer relations.

Most business processes start with a form. That means that the form is often your one and only chance to make a first impression.  In some cases, government bureaucracies come to mind, a form or forms may be the only way customers interact with an organization. If the forms are bad, the relationship won’t be good. Bad forms can result in users postponing, abandoning and sometimes bypassing key processes.

On the other hand, well-designed, intuitive, user-friendly forms can reduce friction, build rapport and help set appropriate expectations. The improved service that results from good data collection will inspire confidence. Your forms build your reputation and promote your brand.

Form Design Influences Behavior

How we design our forms – the words we choose, the presence or absence of default values, the order of choice options – influence users decisions. If that sounds far fetched consider the image below illustrating organ donation enrollment in Europe.


Source: Why BI?

The stark difference between the rates for the countries listed on the left and those listed on the right isn’t due to culture or religion. It’s the difference between opting in and opting out. Want to increase employee participation your retirement contribution program? Change the form? Want to see more customers opt for a higher value product? Change the form.

We’ll be discussing how you can use wording, question framing, defaults and choice architecture to influence user choices in a future article. And if you’re thinking, “Wait, that’s manipulative. I don’t want to do that,” we’ll also discuss how you can mitigate the influence of your questions on users choices (though it’s not possible to be 100% neutral).

Where Do We Go From Here?

Once you’re convinced that form design matters, what’s the next step? Start by reframing how you think about the form process.

The Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian Government recently introduced the WISER framework for form design. It lays out specific steps to go through in identifying the form’s audience, providing appropriate instructions, using a clear layout, etc.

Source: FORM-A-PALOOZA 2019

There are two big things you should notice about the WISER framework.  First, the framework focuses on the user’s point of view. Who are the users? Why should they complete the form? What information will they need? What language will they understand?

Second, the framework tells us to test and repeat. You wouldn’t adopt a “set it and forget it” attitude towards developing software, so don’t do that with your forms either. Form design needs to be iterative.

Keep those things in mind as we move forward. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a deep dive into form design, discussing the details of form layout, good questions, and things to think about form-wise when you bring an existing process into Jira for the first time. Then we’ll bring in our friend and Jira super-user, Rachel Wright, to discuss how you can apply these concepts in Jira.

Keep an eye out for the upcoming articles in the series:

  • Why Form Design in Jira Matters  –  How you design your forms will impact the quality of data you receive, and much more!
  • Layout and Flow: Creating User-Friendly Forms in Jira – Form layout affects completion rates and user frustration. We’ll discuss the right way to do it.
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 1 – How do you choose the right words, field types and validation levels? This article will dig into the nitty gritty of creating good form questions. 
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 2 – Choice questions are great for collecting structured data. We’ll look at the options for choice questions and discuss ways to influence, or mitigated influence on the user.
  • Things to think about when converting forms in Jira – Bringing a process into Jira for the first time? Don’t just copy forms straight across. This is a chance to make improvements.
  • Efficient Jira Screens and Jira Service Desk Request Forms – Jira screens and JSD request forms aren’t the same. Here’s how you can make each one work for its audience.
  • Tips for Creating good forms/screens in Jira – Learn how you can leverage Jira features like tabs, workflow transitions and icons to create better forms and screens.
  • Form Design Best Practices: What you can and can’t do in Jira – Now that we know what good form design means, we’ll hone in on which practices can be applied to Jira and Jira Service Desk
  • Use cases – We’ll also include a series of use cases illustrating how using forms expands what you can do in Jira.
  • Form audit – Finally, we’ll take a bad form and transform it to an awesome, user-friendly, data collecting machine.

Better Form Design in Jira (Series)

In 2017, ThinkTilt and Rachel Wright teamed up with the goal of helping business teams get more out of Jira and conquer their “to do” lists. In 2018, we helped administrators effectively manage Jira and battle custom field bloat. Now, we’re collaborating again to help you create better screens and forms in Jira and Jira Service Desk.

In our upcoming series, we’ll help you understand how form design can help or hinder data collection. We’ll help you write good questions, choose the right custom fields, and create forms that users actually want to complete. We’ll explore the screen and form capabilities of Jira, Jira Service Desk, and ProForma. Finally, we’ll provide use cases for various teams and turn bad forms into good ones.

Our first article tackles the differences between screens in Jira and forms in Service Desk. It’s important to understand how screens, screen schemes, and issue type screen schemes work together. Then, you can map screens to issue types and leverage JSD and ProForma forms.

We hope you’ll check in regularly to see the upcoming installments:

  • Why Form Design in Jira Matters  –  How you design your forms will impact the quality of data you receive, and much more!
  • Layout and Flow: Creating User-Friendly Forms in Jira – Form layout affects completion rates and user frustration. We’ll discuss the right way to do it.
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 1 – How do you choose the right words, field types and validation levels? This article will dig into the nitty gritty of creating good form questions. 
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira: Part 2 – Choice questions are great for collecting structured data. We’ll look at the options for choice questions and discuss ways to influence, or mitigated influence on the user.
  • Things to think about when converting forms in Jira – Bringing a process into Jira for the first time? Don’t just copy forms straight across. This is a chance to make improvements.
  • Efficient Jira Screens and Jira Service Desk Request Forms – Jira screens and JSD request forms aren’t the same. Here’s how you can make each one work for its audience.
  • Tips for Creating good forms/screens in Jira – Learn how you can leverage Jira features like tabs, workflow transitions and icons to create better forms and screens.
  • Form Design Best Practices: What you can and can’t do in Jira – Now that we know what good form design means, we’ll hone in on which practices can be applied to Jira and Jira Service Desk
  • Use cases – We’ll also include a series of use cases illustrating how using forms expands what you can do in Jira.
  • Form audit – Finally, we’ll take a bad form and transform it to an awesome, user-friendly, data collecting machine.

About ThinkTilt

ProForma is the forms solution for Jira, making it easy for teams to build and deploy online forms, backed by Jira’s great workflow engine. Empower every team in your organization to take control of their processes and deliver first class request management. All the information you need, where you need it.

About Rachel Wright

Rachel Wright is an entrepreneur, process engineer, and Atlassian Certified Jira Administrator.  She is the owner and founder of Industry Templates, LLC, which helps companies grow, get organized, and develop their processes.  Rachel also uses Atlassian tools in her personal life for accomplishing goals and tracking tasks.  Her first book, the “Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, was written in Confluence and progress was tracked in Jira!

7 Custom Fields Every Jira Application Needs

As a Jira administrator you should choose your custom fields carefully. Too many fields are a headache to maintain. In our custom field series, we’ve shared our tips for battling custom field bloat, auditing your fields list, and reducing your field count. Now we’d like to share some custom fields we recommend that you do create.

In Keeping It Clean: Containing Jira Custom Field Growth we recommended sharing custom fields with different teams across the organization. These 7 fields are intended to be used by many teams in many Jira projects.

Recommended Custom Fields

1. Requested

Custom Field Types
Custom Field Types

Field type: Date Picker

Create a “Date Picker” type field and name it “Requested.” Place this field on a project’s “Create” screen and use it to answer the question “When would you like this request completed by?

This field is different from the “Due Date” field, which signifies when the team can actually accommodate the request. The “Due Date” field should be populated after a request is reviewed for understanding and prioritized. In most cases, that field should not appear on the initial “Create” screen.

Requested vs Due Date Fields
Requested vs Due Date Fields

Consider this scenario: The Legal team needs an update to the terms and conditions page on the company web site. They create an issue for the Development team with a requested date of March 15. The Development team receives and considers the request. Since it’s of “Medium” priority, they slide the change into their next release, which is March 22. These two fields have easily helped convey urgency and communicate ability.

Recommendation
Always place the “Priority” field before a requested date field on a screen. Collecting the importance before a date is entered may help set realistic expectations.

2. Category

Field type: Select List (multiple choices)

The built-in “Components” field is a great way to categorize (and automatically assign) work. But what if you need a second categorization method? Create a “Select List (multiple choices)” field and name it “Category”. This generic name is important and ensures that the field can be used to cover many scenarios.

Custom Field Context
Custom Field Context

Custom Field Context

Next, use Jira’s “Contexts” feature to display different selection values in different projects. For example, the Legal team categorizes their work with selection values like: Contract, Service Agreement, Litigation, etc. The Security team
categorizes their work with options like: Denial of Service, Information Disclosure, and Injection. Using a custom field context allows you to use one field to support many scenarios.

Recommendation
Always add an “Other” selection to cover all potential non-listed responses.

3. Department

Field type: Select List (single choice)

Which department generates the most requests for your team? That’s useful information for reporting! Unfortunately, Jira doesn’t know information like a user’s department name, team name, manager’s name, or phone number. While it is possible to store these additional details in a user property, there’s no easy way to leverage that data without custom development.

Instead, create a “Select List (single choice)” field and name it “Department.” Create one selection value for each department in the company and ask the reporter to choose the appropriate one on the “Create” screen. Easy!

4. Team

Field type: Select List (single choice)

Same as above. Create a “Select List (single choice)” field and name it “Team.” You could also couple the concept of “Department” and “Team” in one field by using the “Select List (cascading)” type. First the user chooses a department and they choose their team from a sub-set of selections. Now you have an easy way to query who the work is for.

Select List (cascading) Field
Select List (cascading) Field

5. URLs

Field type: Text Field (multi-line)

It’s common that Jira issues are related to data from other websites and applications within and outside the company. For example, the Development team may need links to vendor documentation for their integration project. The Facilities team may need a link to the purchasing policy Google Doc for large equipment orders. The HR team may need to link to an employee’s record in a third-party employee resource application. When external applications are integrated with Jira, linking is easy. But what do you do for all those other applications that aren’t connected?

Create a “Text Field (multi-line)” field and name it “URLs.” Users can enter an unlimited number of links to other online areas without the need for one custom field per URL. Jira will even make the URLs clickable on an issue’s “View” screen, as shown in the screenshot.

Text Field (multi-line) Field with Links

Text Field (multi-line) Field with Links

6. IDs

Field type: Text Field (single line)

Sometimes you need to associate Jira issues with records in other offline or inaccessible applications. For example, a purchase order number from desktop accounting software, an ID in a vendor’s system, or a serial number on a piece of equipment. Just like the URLs field above, individual custom fields are often overkill. Instead, create a “Text Field (single line)” field and name it “IDs.” Users can enter ID numbers as comma separated values.

Text Field (single line) Field with Identification Numbers
Text Field (single line) Field with Identification Numbers

7. Notes

Field type: Text Field (multi-line)

Finally, sometimes users need to enter more information that doesn’t belong in the standard “Description” field. Create a “Text Field (multi-line)” field and name it “Notes.” This generally named field can be used in different ways in different projects. Use a Field Configuration scheme if you need to provide a project or issue-specific field description.

Now there’s no need for an “Information” custom text field, an “Instructions” field, or a “Business Justification” field. All those lovely details can go in a single field.

Recommendation
If you’re not planning to query for or report on a piece of information, don’t devote a custom field to it.

Conclusion

Carefully planning your custom fields makes Jira administration easier. Creating generic fields for use by multiple teams is an easy way to support the needs of your users and limit the custom field count at the same time.

Which custom fields do you use across multiple projects? What strategies help you reduce the need for custom fields? Share your tips and tricks in the “Comment” section below.

Teaming Up for Spanish Speakers

¿Hablas español? I don’t but I really wish I did! In fact, “Learn Spanish” is issue BUCKET-60 on my Jira bucket list. New languages aren’t easy for me however, so in the mean time, I’ve teamed up with DEISER, to translate some of my content to Spanish! Jira, Jira Service Desk, and Confluence are growing rapidly in Spain. We want to make more Atlassian information available to users there and in other Spanish speaking countries.

We started with my most popular article about studying for Jira admin certification. You can read the first translation: “Administradores de Jira: Las claves para preparar la certificación Atlassian ACP-100” on the Strategy for Jira website or on DEISER‘s website. More translations are on the way; you’ll find them all in the “Spanish” category.

About DEISER

DEISER Logo

As an Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner DEISER provides 360° solutions for high-performance teams. They provide apps for Jira, implementation consultancy with an eye on quick results, and licensing management for all your Atlassian products.

About Rachel Wright

Strategy for Jira Logo

Rachel Wright is an entrepreneur, process engineer, and Atlassian Certified Jira Administrator.  She is the owner and founder of Industry Templates, LLC, which helps companies grow, get organized, and develop their processes.  Rachel also uses Atlassian tools in her personal life for accomplishing goals and tracking tasks.  Her first book, the “Jira Strategy Admin Workbook“, was written in Confluence and progress was tracked in Jira!

Together, we look forward to helping even more users set up, clean up, and maintain Jira, Jira Service Desk, and Confluence.

Jira Next Gen-Projects: From the User’s Point of View

I’ll admit that I didn’t expect to like next-gen projects, Atlassian’s answer to making Jira more simple, and creating self-contained projects that won’t impact the performance of your entire Jira instance. First off, I felt vaguely resentful of the timing – just as I’m finally figuring out the complexities of Jira, they come out with a “Dummies” version.  Second, I’m not a drag-and-drop type of person. I learn through language, by hearing and reading. I tend to find tools built for visual learners to be imprecise and a bit annoying. But I decided to put my reservations aside and create a next-gen project. Here’s what I found.

The Great Things About Jira Next-Gen Projects

Set up was fast and easy.  I had mapped out my project on paper so it was pretty quick to set up the issue types I wanted.  I added and ordered the fields I needed right there as I was creating the issue types, creating custom fields and adding choices to my dropdowns – all on one easy screen and with no schemes to worry about. 

I set up my screens at the same time that I created my first issues. Again, it was simple and intuitive. I simply clicked on Configure Fields on the Issue Create screen and now all of the fields I wanted are there.

These are two big advantages of next-gen projects. Set-up was simple and it’s really, really nice to know that I can create a project specific to my needs, without worrying that I’ll screw things up for everyone else.

And the Risks…

Time will tell if those two advantages also turn out to be the biggest disadvantages of next-gen projects.  While setting up the next-gen project was certainly easy, I wonder if the simplicity itself may cause users to miss out on something. When you wade through issue type schemes, field configuration schemes, etc. you are getting the benefit of learning from those who have gone before you. Seeing the fields that are used in other projects may trigger you to think about aspects of your project that had slipped your mind, aspects that may not be relevant to you, but are crucial to other users. I’m curious to see if, as my project evolves and I make needed adjustments, it will end up looking a lot like one of the default schemes.

While it’s nice to be able to create a project knowing that you won’t mess up what anyone else is doing, it also implies a higher level of responsibility. If this is my standalone project, with my issue types and my custom fields, then it’s my job to get them right and to clean up the mess when I get them wrong. It will also be my job to deal with maintenance – to keep the project clean, to make needed changes, to clean up the data when garbage gets entered. Simplified maintenance is one of the key advantages of shared schemes. It will be interesting to see, as use of next-gen projects grows, if maintenance becomes an issue. Atlassian has said that they will soon be providing the ability to extract next-gen project settings into their own template, and link two or more projects’ settings together. (However, they also say that if you want to share configurations, it’s best to go with a “classic” project.)

The other limitations of next-gen projects relate to them being new. Atlassian has published their roadmap, letting us know when features we’re used to using in traditional projects will become available for next-gen projects. App developers will also need time to catch up. For instance, ProForma – which allows you to create forms that embed in Jira issues – does not yet work for next-gen projects. I think I’ll create an issue for that.

Are You Ready for the New Jira?

Atlassian’s introduction of “Next-gen” projects in Jira Cloud represents a paradigm shift in the way they build and deliver features.  They are moving from a massive monolith of code to microservices structure.  In their recent webinar “The new Jira begins now” Atlassian shared that they operated from a single code base for almost a decade!  I used to work in an environment of large and aging software, so I know how challenging it can be.  Your team is ready with a new feature, but you can’t release it until all teams are ready to also ship their code.  Or, your team changes one variable and it breaks everything for all the other teams.  No fun!

It sounds like Atlassian is now able to build software the way I wish we could have back then.  They are leveraging “feature flags” to better control rollout and delivery.  For example, they can deploy code in an “off” state and turn it on later.  Additionally, they can turn code “on” for a subset of customers, or launch features in a controlled and measurable way.

Sounds great!  If I didn’t love Jira consulting so much, I might be tempted to get back into software development.

What does it mean?

So what does this shift get Atlassian?  It means the freedom to re-architect, try new things, and build a new project creation and management experience in Jira Cloud.  The Next-gen projects launched without expected features, like Epics, Sub-tasks, and required fields.  But with their new release capabilities, features like these are shipping quickly.

Atlassian has shared their development roadmap, which is a most welcome addition.  I always appreciate any insight I can get!

Do we want this?

Atlassian says we do!  They surveyed customers and learned that teams want flexibility and that centralized administration creates bottlenecks.  Waiting for your Jira admin to create your new project doesn’t scale.  I can understand that and I know users and customers have waited on me to perform an “admin only” task.

Atlassian also says admins have expressed the desire to delegate some of the more mundane tasks so they can focus on more important and impactful work.  I get that too.  There are some things I don’t love to do, like managing group membership, for example.  As long as there are no collisions,  impacts to other projects, or messes for admins to clean up, delegated administration could be very helpful.

Key Differences

Atlassian uses the word traditional to describe the original projects we’re more familiar with.  Traditional projects utilize configuration schemes.  The new Next-gen projects are “schemeless” and totally independent.  Atlassian says that future Next-gen projects will have template abilities.  I’m interested to see how that differs from the traditional project’s concept of “Software”, “Service Desk”, and “Business” project types.

Not only are Next-gen projects created by different users but the creation process differs too.  I have a very specific set up process for traditional projects and even a new project configuration checklist.  I’m careful to complete steps in a specific order to avoid extra clicks.

With Next-gen projects, the configuration order is different.  It is:

  1. Create the project and select permissions
  2. Create board columns
  3. Add users
  4. Create issue types
  5. Create custom fields
  6. Connect to other tools

It’s strange to me to configure a board before the workflow, but if the workflow is based on the board (not the other way around) then it makes sense.  Atlassian’s use of Jira is definitely more board-centric than my own.  I’m not a heavy board user; dashboards are more helpful to me.  But that could be because I used Jira before boards had today’s list of features.

The Next-gen boards continue to evolve and improve with new features like:

  • bulk issue update abilities,
  • column display limits,
  • background color changes for “flagged” issues,
  • rules – like auto assignment based on status change,
  • and visual integrations with dev tools.

Finally, Atlassian shared that the new project model improves performance, stability, and helps prepare them for the next decade of software development.

What will happen to “traditional” projects?

Will development for “traditional” Jira Cloud projects continue?  It’s uncertain.  It sounds like all these new cool features are only for Next-gen projects and won’t be back-ported.  That’s sad but understandable. Essentially they would have to develop the same feature twice, once for each code framework.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense to do – unless customers are clamoring for it.

How do Next-gen projects impact apps and app developers?

To answer this question, I asked ThinkTilt, the maker of ProForma, a forms and custom fields add-on for Jira Server and Jira Cloud.

ThinkTilt said that the Next-gen projects have quite an impact for them and other Marketplace app developers.  Atlassian is still working on supporting apps in the new projects.  Some screens, like the project configuration screens, didn’t appear until recently, meaning many apps didn’t work at all for the new project type.

The next step is for Atlassian to update their APIs so app developers can access the new features of Next-gen projects.  Today, apps can see what has been configured for a project, but there are no abilities yet for doing more, like adding or editing the configuration.  When all the Atlassian pieces are ready, app developers will need to update their apps to make them work well.

Expectations

What are your expectations of Atlassian and their new Jira Cloud experience?  What are the expectations of your Jira admin team or your users?  Share your opinions in the Comments section below.

Learn more about Next-gen projects at:  http://atlassian.com/get-next-gen