Configuring contact records
One of the first things you will want to do is get familiar with contact records. Contact records are used to store information about people, and to present information about them in meaningful ways. You will want to configure the system to store the information you consider important, and to present this information in a way that is appropriate for your organization.
A few things to understand about contact records and how they are managed in AbleOrganizer:
- The software supports multiple contact types. This includes individuals, households and organizations.
- The software supports unlimited custom fields for each contact type.
- The software ships with a set of default fields for storing information about contacts. These fields can all be modified / deleted, except for the name field. This field is required to ensure AbleOrganizer works properly.
Working with contact types
AbleOrganizer provides a web-based administrative interface for managing contacts. You can access it within the admin section of the website, which will give you a list of all the contact types that are configured for the site. This is the main contact management interface, you can use this screen to add new contact types or edit any of the existing ones.
For each contact type, there are a number of links to the left of the name.
- Edit allows you to modify some of the basic details about the contact type itself.
- Manage fields allows you to add, modify or delete any of the fields associated with each contact type.
- Manage display allows you to control the order in which the fields appear, when presented on a contact record. Please note: the overall appearance of contact records is controlled in other ways, this link simply lets you control the order of fields.
- Clone allows you to duplicate the overall structure of a contact type, to use as a template for other contact types.
- Delete allows you to remove a contact type, along with all of its associated records, from your system.
- Export allows you to export the structure of a contact type for use in other websites.
Configuring custom fields for contacts
AbleOrganizer allows you to configure a distinct set of fields for each contact type. You can add, edit and delete the fields associated with each contact type through the web-based administrative interface.
From the main contact administration screen, select a contact type and click the manage fields link. This screen will provide some basic information about how each field is configured, along with controls that allow you to add new fields to the system. The fields appear in the order they will appear when being entered into the system. You can control the order of fields by dragging them into the desired order, using the handle to the left of the field name.
Each field will have a record that lists some basic information, which includes:
- Machine name, which is a special code that is used for tokens within the system. You can use this machine name when you want to pre-populate some forms and reports. Don't worry about trying to memorize the machine names for each field, there are tools that allow you to select them.
- Field type, which explains what kind of information is collected in this field. AbleOrganizer allows you to collect information in a lot of ways - addresses, phone numbers, social media accounts, e-mail addresses, etc. You can use different field types to handle different types of information.
- Widget, which tells you how information is being collected in this field. Certain field types, such as dates, provide multiple tools for collecting information. You can use widgets to control the forms that are used to collect information.
- Edit, which allows you to change the settings associated with the field.
- Delete, which allows you to remove the field (and all of its data) from your site.
Adding new fields and reusing fields
When viewing the fields associated with a contact record, you can also add new fields. Scroll down to the bottom of the list of fields, and you will see a box labelled 'Add new field.'
Enter a name for the field, and a machine name will automatically be generated. From there, you can select a field type for the field, and also select the widget that will be used to collect information. Once you are done, click the save button at the bottom of the screen to go to the field settings page. The field settings page allows you to control other aspects of how information will be collected. AbleOrganizer ships with a variety of field types, and new ones can be downloaded from Drupal.org to expand the set of field types available for use. The specific field settings will vary based on the field type.
Some things to remember when creating new fields:
- You can always change the widget used to collect information, but you can't change the field type once it has been created.
- You can edit the machine name of the field when it is being created, but not after it has been saved to the system.
- You can reuse the same fields for storing contact information on multiple contact types. Below the box for adding a new field is one for adding an existing field. You can select any field stored in the system from the drop down list.
Managing the display of contact records
The main contact administration screen provides tools that allow you to control the display of contact records. These tools control the order in which fields associated with contact records are displayed on a page by default, and whether or not each field is visible to users.
You can control the display of fields by clicking the manage display link for a contact type. Each contact type has its own display settings. You will be taken to a screen that is similar to the one for editing fields. It will include a list of fields for the contact type, along with a set of options for each field.
- The Label option allows you to control whether or not a label is displayed with each field.
- The Format option allows you to control how the field will be rendered. The options available change depending on the field type.
- Some fields feature a configuration icon all the way to the right, which provides you with more advanced options for how a field will display. Image fields, for instance, allow you to control the size of an image when it is being presented. The options will vary based on the field type.
Default field settings
Various components in AbleOrganizer depend on default field settings. For instance, when it's time to send an e-mail to a contact, AbleOrganizer will want to know the correct e-mail address to use. Since contact records could have multiple fields for storing e-mail addresses, the system needs to know the right one.
To solve this problem, AbleOrganizer allows you to configure default fields for use with contact records. These default fields will be used whenever the system needs to pull specific information about a contact, such as phone number, mailing address and e-mail address. To configure the default fields for contact records, go to the main contact administration screen and select the edit link for a contact type. A set of select lists labelled 'Primary Fields' will appear at the bottom of this form. Use this for setting the default fields for accessing contact information throughout AbleOrganizer.
Best practices for managing contact types
Working with contact records can be complex, so it helps to have a plan in mind when setting up contact records on your website. There are a few things you can do to get the most of your site by putting some thought into your contact records before sitting down to configure them.
- It's usually a good idea to write down a list of fields you need to support before creating fields in AbleOrganizer. Considering using a spreadsheet to model the fields you are going to use before creating the fields in AbleOrganizer. This can save a lot of time and frustration, and prevent data loss from happening.
- Make sure you are not trying to track an activity within a contact record. If you are trying to store information about the last donation received from someone, it's usually better to store this as an activity.
- In general, the fewer contact types you use, the better. The default ones that ship with AbleOrganizer are appropriate in most situations. If you need to segment your contacts more selectively, use tags within the contact types. For instance, if you needed to create a list of high net worth donors, it's usually better to add a field that allows you to tag your contacts than to create a unique contact type for this category of contacts.
- When you are configuring fields, it's important to remember you can control what fields can be seen by users, and which ones can only be seen by administrators. For instance, just because a geofield is associated with a contact record, that does not mean everyone needs to see it.
- If you are familiar with how to manage a Drupal website, the interface for editing a contact record probably looks familiar to you. The developers of AbleOrganizer went to great pains to ensure the software works the same way as other things in Drupal. In general, it's safe to assume contact types are managed the same way as content types.