Writing application templates for your grant rounds can be an intimidating task. It can be the difference between your applicants having a great experience or a not-so-great experience, so it is worthwhile giving some thought to how the template is organised and making use of all the tools available.
If done correctly, building a great application template can help reduce the administrative burden on your funding team by allowing the applicant to navigate the templates more easily and increase the customer satisfaction of applicants.
We decided to put together a few tips, based on what we have seen in our interactions, to help you on your quest to create the best grant template possible.
1. Use the correct types of controls for your questions
It might seem obvious but often the field type chosen to ask a question is not the most suitable for the response. Examples of this can be
Using a single-line question type when a paragraph question type is needed
Using a long list of radio buttons or checkboxes when a select box is more suitable.
Capturing a date using a text field instead of a date field
These decisions impact the user experience of the application template making it easier to interact with your users as well as make the application template more accessible, opening up your template to a wider audience to interact with.
To make the best decisions on question types it’s worthwhile spending time exploring the different question types available in the template builder as well as familiarising yourself with the basics of web html controls and elements along with their accessibility implications.
Figure 1. An example of different questions types in Tahua grants management platform
2. Provide sufficient help text and guidelines
Often when adding our questions to our applications we forget to add the necessary support information so that applicants can understand what’s being asked for.
Depending on the tools offered by the template builder, we can provide different styles of supporting text depending on what is trying to be communicated:
Concealed help text triggered by a hover off interaction – ideal for less prominent opt-in short explanations of the question e.g. meanings and alternative explanations of the question
In-place support text for in situ support related to the question – suited for more prominent support information that you want to put in front of the applicant’s view every time e.g. context and guidance for the question response
Dedicated support pages – ideal for large bodies of support text like introductory pages with dedicated links to key resources, eligibility information, and overarching themes of the grant round.
It is also important when writing support text to emphasise clarity and simplicity for the user to avoid adding more confusion to the user. Often key insights about this can come from your applicants or grantees so it is worth paying attention to their feedback so it can be amended or improved in subsequent templates.
Figure 2. An example of different styles of support text
3. Use validations to restrict and protect data integrity.
When adding questions to your application template it is worth looking into what validations are available for each question type. Validations can be used to restrict user input and data errors before they happen, preventing data integrity issues that arise later in the process.
Some examples of where this can be used:
rather than asking users to limit their responses to a certain number of questions or characters, enforce this limit using a validation on the question.
If you require a certain text format such as an IRD/VAT number or an email, check if there is any ability to restrict responses to that format or if there is any support for user-defined pattern matching.
Restrict file upload types and sizes to the formats that apply to the question e.g. excel/csv for budget file uploads.
If validations are not used it is possible to end up in trouble when it comes to reporting because the data is not consistent enough to produce accurate results. This can lead to overheads in cleaning up the data retroactively or even worse reporting on incorrect or misleading data.
Figure 3. An example of a word limit being applied to a question in Tahua
4. Provide a logical flow and break things up into smaller parts
It can be overwhelming for an applicant when they are presented with an application template, especially when it is provided in a big long one-pager of questions that seem to have no logical flow or order. Psychologically having a well thought out template can reduce stress on the applicants providing an overall better experience.
Ideally, you want your questions to be grouped so that your applicants can focus on the types of questions being asked in that area of the applicant template. It is also worthwhile breaking the questions down into smaller parts to make it more approachable for the applicant and to help lead them through the process.
Before beginning the process of building your applications in a digital template it can be worthwhile sketching out the different questions on paper or in a word document in rough form.
Then go through a process of grouping or categorising the questions so that when they are put into your digital application template you can define your high level pages and sections up front and then drop the questions into the correct place.
It is ok if it is not perfect on your first attempt, components can still be rearranged or moved in digital form but you will save a lot of time by categorising in rough form first.
Once you have a nicely organised template it can be duplicated or copied and then refined further from any feedback or ideas from the previous grant rounds.
5. Use form logic to only show what the applicant needs
It is often the case that certain parts of the application template only need to be shown if a certain response is provided to a preceding question. In an ideal scenario, we should not show these extra questions until they are required by the user making the application form simpler to the user.
An example of this might be a selection of the type of funding that can be applied for, if certain selections are made extra questions might be required, however, we would not want to show these for the selections that are not applicable. This is where form logic can be useful.
This depends on what the template builder has to offer in regards to form logic, so it is worth reading the documentation of the platform to understand what ( if any ) can be done to only show relevant sections to the user.
It is also worth noting that if excessive form logic is used it can make an application template hard to reason about and consequently hard to manage and maintain. As such it is best to focus on the key and important use cases first and not go overboard applying it to every possible scenario that be thought of.
Building grant templates can be an intimidating prospect but hopefully these tips have given you some ideas or guidance on how to improve them for next time.
Tahua provides comprehensive options to build your application templates in a user-friendly way, including but not limited to all topics outlined above. If you would like to understand more then reach out to book a demo.