Zoho Sites And The Database Connection

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A website is the online face of a business, and act as a repository of information. They are the first point of contact for random visitors, and play a vital role in helping them decide on using your service, so it’s got to be really impressive. Call it the front-end of your business activity.

Then there is the back-end, which is the critical business data obtained from these visitors. This collected data is a source of wisdom that teaches you about visitors and trends, enabling you to make smarter projections in future. Collecting and storing data, and more importantly, mining information from piles of collected data has to be done using databases; Zoho Creator databases, in this case. But how do these two ends meet?

When it comes to business process management, the relationship between these two services is blazing, though not very obvious. Zoho Creator databases are pre-integrated into Zoho Sites, and serve two scenarios.

1. Data Collection through Custom Online Forms
2. Dynamic Webpage Content Management

Online Forms:

Be it contact details, event registration, survey or any other unique data collection requirement, Zoho Creator forms can be customized to suit every need. The forms can be inserted into your webpages just by dragging them into place, and they blend with your website’s color theme, so that it appears to be a part of it.

Best thing about forms is that you can configure condition-based actions to make it as intelligent as you wish. For example, you can instantly show or hide a set of fields based on the value of a previous field. This makes sure that only the relevant fields are displayed to users, thus establishing a connection. And every time a visitor fills up a form on your website, an email notification is triggered automatically to keep you informed.

The data collected would be of less value without filters to manipulate it. Searching, sorting and filtering options help you to mine out that essential piece of information from the entire database, without having to write complex combination code.

Dynamic Webpage Content:

This is yet another major implementation of databases on a webpage. Some pages on a website need to be continuously updated with information. So, instead of having to modify the webpage every time, you setup a database for that page, which holds all the frequently changing content, and the layout in which it is displayed on the webpage. Every time you need to add, alter or remove data, you do it on the database, which is simple as filling up a form. The corresponding webpage automatically reflects the changes, without even the slightest delay.

This is especially useful when the website is being collaboratively managed by many members. This database, which is actually a Zoho Creator form, can be shared to all these members, enabling every one of them to keep the website up to date, from independent locations.

These are just the gist of how databases can be used to leverage your website. Both Zoho Creator and Zoho Sites stand up for customization, and cater to unique requirements, so the limit is always what you put on it. Oh, and now is a good time to begin experimenting, because we have Payment Buttons for Dynamic Pages up next, so you’ll want to be familiar¬†with databases by then ūüėČ

Zoho Creator and The Playwrights’ Center – The Plot Thickens

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Premise:



 


The Playwrights’ Center focuses on both supporting playwrights and promoting new plays to theaters across the country. Significantly, they offer over $200,000 in fellowships to writers and theater artists each year. They also organize workshops where playwrights can get together with actors and directors to see their script at work, and manage several other programs that help playwrights get connected and build their careers. As they work closely with theaters, actors, directors, and writers, they have an advantage when it comes to advocating for artists and promoting them.




 




Flashback:



 


Way back in 1971, five playwrights were seeking professional assistance and support.

The Playwrights’ Center
 was founded by these five writers to help them secure productions of their plays, and later expanded to offer multiple forms of support and professional assistance. Since then, it has served as a launch-pad for numerous artists and currently serves over 1,100 member playwrights, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive play-writing centers in the country.


 




Lead:



 


Tom Borger is the Communications Associate there, who is responsible for social media coverage, as well as print and electronic communications. He was the person who set

Zoho Creator
 up for the Playwrights’ Center. He spoke to us about why and how they got started.


 




Action:

 

The Playwrights’ Center wanted to track the careers of writers who had benefited from their programs. Knowing where each of their playwrights’ plays had been produced, as well as what honors and awards that playwright had received, would help them promote and advocate for the playwright. The Playwrights’ Center also wanted to measure their own effectiveness. This data would go to funders and donors interested in the impact of the Center’s work.


The extensive documentation
was gratifying to have; there were so many examples, and the message
boards were full of other people’s experiences.



The problem was that they had theaters, productions, awards, and past development to track, in addition to playwrights. Also, a play would often have more than one playwright. When a play was selected, all artists associated with that play needed to be populated in the respective fields, and vice versa. Handling these complex branches of data on spreadsheets was the last thing they wanted to do because it led to multiple versions of the same data. So, Tom decided to build a new database using Zoho Creator.


Credits:


The very few times I ran into snags, I emailed support and heard back
really quickly. That was impressive because all that was for a user who
wasn’t even paying; I was doing all this on a free account.



Tom is now set for the next step; publicizing the applications on their website using a JSON feed. He also suggests that the number of specific scenarios addressed on our

community-forum
 should keep growing in order to guide new users. That, we will do.  


(And, personally, I loved using

Pixlr
for editing the images for this post!)

Zoho Creator – Zoho CRM Integration : A success story of Credible Systems

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Guest post by Mark Thurman of Credible Systems:


Credible Systems joined the


Zoho Alliance Partner Program
 2 years ago, with Zoho Creator as their main focus, and later expanded their scope to include Zoho CRM, Zoho Reports, & Zoho Projects. Founded in early 2009 by Mark Thurman and Sarah Treanor,


Credible System
 is a consultancy focused on helping organizations of all sizes and types, leverage the growing power of cloud-computing. Their clients range from schools and SME’s to much larger enterprises. Here is how Mark

sees it all:



The Client:


We were approached by a European-wide consultancy to assist them with extending the functionality of Zoho CRM. The client provides a broad range of business consultancy services to blue chip organization across Europe.

The Problem:


Their need was to effectively track the utilization of resources across their various clients and projects. Of course, a spreadsheet solution could have sufficed as a short-term solution. But we had our doubts about it being a scalable, long-term solution, keeping in mind the client’s growing operations. An external third-party solution would cause an additional problem of duplicating all data, inevitably leading to differences between the two sets.


Zoho Creator
 would be a fine solution for such a problem in any case, but its recent integration with Zoho CRM made it the perfect solution.

Zoho Creator, it seems, has something for everybody
.


The Implementation:


We created a custom database application that allows the user to import opportunity details directly from Zoho CRM, based upon certain criteria. For instance, only those with a status of “Closed Won” are brought into Zoho Creator. Using Deluge script, we then provided methods for 
  • Creating sub-projects for each opportunity 
  • Assign a unique Project ID 
  • Relate the project to specific internal business units for project work and administration 
  • Expose relevant CRM data for the selected opportunity 


And with reports generated from within Zoho Creator, they were able to



  • compare planned and actually delivered values for an opportunity against the estimated Opportunity Value in


    CRM






  • chart the utilization level for a specific resource, business unit or entire company against a threshold for a


    specific


    time period




  • create calendar views of resource


    allocation


    providing consolidated information at a glance



The Next Step:
We intend to use Zoho Creator for Google Apps, combined with


Zoho CRM’s sync with Google Contacts and Calendar
. By this, we can provide resource utilization calendars within Google Apps, for the data residing in Zoho CRM.

When an Activity is created, we can provide a function to ‘write’ the Activity details to Zoho CRM as an ‘Event’.
  • Create custom calendar views in Zoho CRM for ‘All Events’ and ‘My Events’ 
  • Set up CRM calendar sync with Google Apps calendars 
  • Then ‘All Events’ and ‘My Events’ CRM calendars will be visible on Google Calendar too.
Resource planning using Zoho Creator has allowed them to see how much resource is currently planned against each project, and how much they can possibly expand, thus enabling them to manage available resources effectively.

Explore Zoho Reports Series: Part III – Form Interface using Zoho Creator

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In Zoho Reports, data is stored as database tables. Unlike in conventional databases, this tabular data can be readily edited in Zoho Reports, using its spreadsheet-like interface. When new data is to be entered, it would be possible to do so using this interface. But wouldn’t it be easier and more functional if we had a form interface? There can be situations where data entry has to happen without the user seeing the whole database.

Enter Zoho Creator, our friendly online app creator and form builder. All you have to do is follow three simple steps as below to get your form interface.

  1. Create the form using Zoho Creator’s drag-and-drop interface.

  2. When creating the form, uncheck the ‘Store data in Creator’ option

  3. Include a short Deluge script that instructs Zoho Creator to directly store data in Zoho Reports.

Once the above is done, you can start entering data in the Zoho Creator form, see it getting collected in Zoho Reports and create all the reports you need in Zoho Reports as usual. Detailed documentation of how to go about this is available here. In case of any questions/clarifications, leave your comments or email us at support@zohoreports.com.

Note: While the above is for Zoho Reports users, in the past, we have had a couple of integration points for Zoho Creator users (where the web app is built using Zoho Creator and all data gets stored in Zoho Creator itself).

  • Zoho Creator has an in-built ‘Reports’ tab (that’s powered by Zoho Reports) which provides all the necessary reporting for your data.
  • If you wanted to use the full features of Zoho Reports, you can periodically export your data from Zoho Creator to Zoho Reports, for further reporting and analysis.
More about the above two options here.

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Zoho Creator Simplifies Data Management for Providence Community Action – A Case Study

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Providence Community Action is a private, non profit organization, dedicated to improving the quality of life for low income Providence residents. Their services include heating and weatherization assistance, consumer credit and debt counseling, clinical services (counseling), case management, an affordable housing program, Interim Middle School for youth excluded from regular public school and


much more
We spoke to Damian Costantino, the organization’s IT director who’s responsible for networking communications, system administration and database creation.







Damian had implemented an application using Zoho Creator, and they had about five users using it extensively. These five users in turn would deal with 100’s of clients. Damian, being the database administrator, was very well-versed in programming languages like Python and SQL, and had previously experimented

with 


Google Forms, Filemaker, Microsoft SharePoint and 


Microsoft


 Access.

 Complexity was not a concern, but the cost certainly was. They wanted something affordable, yet robust, especially because they were operating from four different locations, but not on the same VPN. No client should be serviced at more than one location, and details of the services provided had to be reported to their funders and agencies which refer clients. 

“What I like most about Zoho Creator is that you can make it as
complicated as you want or drill down as you want. The limit is what you
put on it.” – Damian Constantino, IT Director 


The integration between Zoho Creator and Zoho Reports is what they use extensively, second to sharing forms. Damian has made union queries a big part of the reports they generate, so that the graphical representation of data is self-explanatory; people don’t have to filter data. He says this application has improved their data collection and reporting efficiency 100%. They also appreciated not having to configure a connection to a back-end database and constantly ensure the connection is sound. Eliminating usage complexities for those who collect and report on data is an advantage with Zoho Creator, he said.


Zoho Creator turned out to be all that they were looking for in a database application,
efficiently refining the way they collected and reported on data. We’re also proud of the fact that Damian, a system administrator and a
network engineer who holds data security as a primary responsibility trusts Zoho Creator with their organization’s sensitive
data. 

Watch out for some more myth-busting stories about Zoho Creator. Coming soon.

95% customers recommend Zoho Creator – Survey Report

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A while ago, we conducted a survey of Zoho Creator users. Customer-profiling was the prime motive of this survey. We needed to know what type of clientele we have, what category of applications were built most and how pleasant an experience app-building has been to our users. We initially aimed this survey at premium users only. This profiling enabled us to focus more on aspects which needed immediate attention. The response was warm. So were the answers, and I thought I’d share the findings with you all.

  






Were they tech-savvy?



The
ability to add complex business rules to applications is what makes
Zoho Creator stand out from the mob of mere form builders. To testify
how easy it is to add intelligence to your apps, 61% of those who
responded have had no prior experience in any programming language
.


Who helped them?



Some had hired an IT professional to
help in building the apps. Few others had taken the help of our Zoho
Creator developers. But close to 90% had built their apps all by themselves.








Would they recommend Zoho Creator to others?


We believe that if you are happy with a deal, you would naturally
influence your community into getting the most out of it. In that
context, we had 95% of the respondents saying they would happily recommend Zoho Creator as
a solution to others with similar needs. As for the remaining 5%, we
understand that it is highly impossible to satisfy everyone :) 


The Bottom Line:

The
mission of Zoho Creator is to empower end-users in building custom
applications all by themselves. We gained some valuable insights from
this survey and our findings have been in line with our efforts and
expectations. The results look very promising and suggest that we are
moving in the right direction. We thank all the participants who took
the time to respond. Do take a look at the survey form which served our purpose.

We would also love
to hear what you think about Zoho Creator and how we can do better. If
you’d like to share your thoughts with us, you can connect with us on
facebook and twitter.

Zoho Creator Walkthrough Videos – 6 and counting

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At Zoho creator support, we’re always happy to cater to our ever inquisitive user community, newbie users and the demo requests. So, in addition to our existing support channels for Zoho Creator (the support team, the help center and the forums) we’re now adding a third channel: Videos 

To start with, here’s the first set of Zoho Creator tutorial and walkthrough videos. There are 6 videos that you can watch here. From a basic video Overview of Zoho Creator to a Video about creating Schedulers, we have tried to explain some of the features that we thought would be important for the first set of videos.

Do take a look at each one of them and tell us what you think. You can also tell us what other videos you would like to see. Leave us a comment here or connect with us on twitter and facebook. We’d love to hear from you!

We also have plans to expand this video gallery so, you can expect periodic additions to this set of videos. Watch this space!