Searchable Data

The efficiency of your database relies greatly on the design of the forms that collect information. By controlling the data provided during an answer, the information collected can easily be stored, retrieved, analyzed and searched.

This concept can best be illustrated by the following example.

CASE 1: Answer is collected using a free-form text field.

Question: What major or field of study are you interested in?

Possible answers:

Electrical Engineering

Electrical Engr

Elec. Engineering

Electr. Engr.

E. Engineering

Electrical Engineer

Elect. Engineer


Engineering (electrical)



CASE 2: Answer is collected using a controlled drop-down selection box.

Question: Select the major or field of study that you are interested in.





 Electrical Engineering

 English Literature

 Industrial Engineering




In the first case, it would be very difficult to predict all the possible combinations that an applicant might provide to indicate that he or she is interested in Electrical Engineering. This type of answer would make creating a search criteria very difficult.

The second case, on the other hand, controls the answer by presenting the applicant with a limited set of choices. The applicant's selection can easily be stored and filtered using a search criteria.

Find ways to control the applicant's answers whenever possible and only use free-form text input when absolutely necessary.

Also see:

Choosing Response Formats

Organizing Answers