Whether you have decided to make some small changes, or are overhauling a form between application periods, the possibility of losing currently submitted information as a result of form changes can sometimes lead to cluttered workflows and reports. This guide aims to help administrators know what they can and cannot safely edit within a live form during and after data collection.
In this Article...
- What is a Live Form?
- How is Information Stored?
- What Can I Alter Safely?
- What Changes Will Negatively Impact my Form?
- Conditional Changes
- Adding a New Question to a Live Form
A live form is a form that has collected data at any point in the lifecycle of your site regardless if those responses belong to applicants that are currently accessing your site, applicants that completed the form in a previous cycle, or test applications you created as an administrator to test the form.
The reason we caution against making major changes to a form as detailed below is because each response that a user gives is stored within the form and within each individual question and choice.
For example, within a form you have a question "What is your favourite colour?" and you have a dropdown with a list of colour choices. If the applicant selects "Blue" as their response, that response is stored within the specific choice of the dropdown. For example:
So when you are pulling reports or piping information to an email or form, that response is retrievable through the choice selected.
If you were to then remove Blue as an option from the list, that applicant's response would also be deleted and would not be available as the labels would shift to meet the new choices available:
If you were to pull a report you may notice that depending on where the choice was in the list, the response will either be blank, or perhaps the data would be skewed and you may actually see a different colour as the selection of the user. For example, as Green has now become the label for Choice 2, and our applicant has selected Choice 2 as their response, the response in the site would now be Green which is inaccurate information.
The same would occur if you were to delete the entire question from the form. As there is no longer a question in the site to store the data that information would no longer be accessible within the site.
Firstly, editing the contents of a form will not prevent your applicants from accessing or completing the form. In cases where applicants have already completed the form you are making changes to, the complete status will be retained through changes.
When you are making alterations to the contents of a form, here are some examples of harmless actions:
- Adding a completely new question to any page
- Applying Options or Display settings to an existing question (i.e. sort alphabetically)
- Moving whole questions within the same page (contents of a question should not be reorganized)
- Re-ordering pages
- Editing styling to the form or question (e.g. font size, width, etc.)
- Editing text descriptions (e.g. Updating dates/years within your question titles and descriptions, correcting typos)
Here is a list of absolutely "do not do's" for form editing. The changes below have the ability to remove your data, and while in some cases changes can be reverted, this is not always the case and can cause even more issues to arise.
|Deleting questions or individual question choices||
WARNING! This will delete existing responses to the question
|Editing choice/variable labels||
WARNING! When you update a choice or variable label, it will automatically update every application where that choice is selected so that the new text is reflected. In some cases, this is fine - like fixing a typo, but refrain from making full list updates. In this case a new question or a duplicate of the form is most beneficial. You can refer above to How is Information Stored for more information.
|Deleting current choices/variables||
WARNING! This kind of change will cause a shift in your collected data. When a choice is deleted, all choice options after it bump up to fill the gap. Someone who correctly selects the label for Choice 2, may end up with what Choice 3 was previously labeled as, when you go to export results or perform reviews.
Some changes to forms can be considered safe, or cause issues, depending on how you apply them. The most common examples follow.
Adding a new choice or variable to an existing question
SAFE USE: When you add a new choice or variable to an existing question at the very end of a list, it will be integrated into the question without issue.
DO NOT DO: Add a choice or variable to the middle of the list. There is a unique way our system interprets choices entered in closed ended questions that can cause the data to be skewed if the choice is added to the middle of the choice list. As described above in How is Information is Stored, the selections that the users make are based on the Choice number (i.e. Choice 2) and not the label ("Blue"). Therefore, if you add a new choice above "Choice 2: Blue," Blue will now become the 3rd choice in the list.
Creating and removing Branching Logic from forms
SAFE USE: Making updates to Branching Logic is a generally safe practice. You can add/edit/remove your branching as you desire without affecting Data. However, it is important to be mindful of 'loops' in your branching. If something is set up in such a way that applicants cannot navigate forward (i.e. marking a required question as invalid entry regardless if it does or does not have a response) it will completely prevent your applicants from moving forward, and can be a very frustrating experience. We do not check for these kinds of loops, so you will still be able to save the form if they are present.
DO NOT DO: It is very important to keep in mind that branching can only exist because of the questions and content of your form. If you need to delete questions or choices, always make sure to remove branching logic prior to the form change, as it can have some undesired effects on accessibility. Additionally, keep in mind that a 'branching loop' can also cause issues. This is when one branching rule is attempting to perform conflicting actions. For example, trying to both hide and show a task as a result of the same condition, the form will not know what action to take.
New questions can be safely added to a form without affecting previously collected data. For more information on how to add a question please refer to How to Add a Question.
NOTE: When you perform this action on a form that already has collected live responses, any user that has completed this task previously will not be asked to come back to the form and update their response. It will remain under the 'Complete' status, and the user will not automatically be informed a change in the form has taken place.
Should an applicant need to go back and fill that out, we would recommend contacting the applicant and informing them of the change.