7 Replies Latest reply on Jan 7, 2013 6:18 AM by Shauniedarko

    Best Method For Time Entry


      I have been racking my brain for some time now on this seemingly simple concept. Needless to say I have not come to a conclusion.


      I am looking for the best method for a user to enter a contact time. Our users typically work from 8AM to 5PM, however we are a 24/7 operation so there is at least one person that could have contacts from 5PM to 8AM. Contact times are in minute increments. Our solution is used for billing, therefore accuracy on time is extremely important.


      Here is what I have tried so far:


      • Blank field, just enter the time - This is not desirable since each user ends up entering values differently. For example, entering 1:00 can mean 1AM to one person but 1PM to another. Blank fields allow users to be creative. Creative users lead to inaccurate billing.
      • Individual fields for hour, minute, and period (AM/PM) with value lists limiting hours to 1-12 and minutes from 00-59. Triggers populate a time field on hour/minute/period field change - Users complain that they have to click on three different fields to enter times. Six fields for situations requiring a start and end time. I do have tab orders set to move between fields on enter, but nobody seems to notice or use it. Also the minute value list is huge and difficult to navigate.
      • Value list with preset hours, 8:00AM, 9:00AM, and so on. Then a up/down arrow to nudge minute increments. - Again, this would mean a lot of clicks to narrow down to the correct minute to say 8:29AM. Breaking down the list to half hour or 15 minute increments just makes the value list more difficult to navigate.


      I have not done this, but it is a thought:


      • Field for hour, two for minute and one for period. User selects from value list for hour 1-12, first minute field 0-9, and second minute field 0-9. Buttons would be above and below each set to nudge up and down. - This makes the minute value lists smaller, but requires more clicks.


      It seems that no matter how I create a time field, I annoy at least half of our 200 users. What ideas or methods do you use in your solutions? Sample files for a visual would be greatly appreciated.

        • 1. Re: Best Method For Time Entry

          What about a TimeStamp field wich auto-enters the start time ?

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          • 2. Re: Best Method For Time Entry

            I guess I should have been more specific.  The contacts are never entered at the time of contact.  It could be up to a week after the contact until the user enters it into the system.  Also, documentation is not a billable action so the time of entry would never be the time billed.  It would always be after the contact.

            • 3. Re: Best Method For Time Entry

              So Chad, I gotta ask: When the users go to enter the billing time (a week after the event) what are they looking at to get the information?

              That part seems to be an operational problem.

              If you use Time Start  and Time End fields which are of the type Time - and a calc field to do the math... the format of what they type will be nagged into compliance. If someone can't learn to use the colon key you might consider having 199 users, huh. Heck, even I learned how to do that .

              • 4. Re: Best Method For Time Entry

                Our users are caseworkers who visit clients in the community.  Notes are written on paper, brought back to the office, and data entered in the billing system.  Development on an iPad database is in the works, but for now paper it is.


                While I would love to be part of the hiring process to give my opinion on computer abilities, for a lot of our caseworkers our billing system is the only computer interaction they have.  Explaining that phone numbers don't belong in an address field and especially not in the field for state or zip code is a constant struggle.  Methods to ensure proper field and data structure are a must. 


                I once had a user who thought the proper separator for month/date/year was a dollar sign, star, hash, or anything other than a slash.  I find it is sometimes easier to handhold the user to enter correct values than to program error dialogs for every possible exception that they could possibly think of.

                • 5. Re: Best Method For Time Entry

                  Ah, I suspected that. Then perhaps OMR is the path for you.



                  It's a relatively low threshold to institute and can provide a huge jump in productivity and accuracy.

                  • 6. Re: Best Method For Time Entry

                    Use script triggers to assist data entry.


                    You only need two text fields for data entry, eg, Time and Period( am or pm). Use a third field to calculate a time value from these two.


                    Set it up so that the user only needs to type numbers: to enter 1:05PM they type 105 and select PM in the period field. If they type 1305 you could adjust the period field automatically.




                    Message was edited by: Malcolm Yes, thanks to Shauniedarko for a better explanation. I didn't say that the reason for having "time" as a text field (instead of time or number) is to allow pretty formatting using scripts or validation. User enters 105 and it is reformatted to display as 1:05 PM.

                    • 7. Re: Best Method For Time Entry

                      Truthfully, you're always going to annoy some users, but that's life unfortunately.  The solution you implement should be the one that encourages the most accuracy.  Malcom's suggestion is sound.  Using one field for time and the other for Period, you can ensure accuracy by implementing an auto-enter calc on the time field to properly format the time ( if they enter 9, it will format it to 9:00, etc), and field validation to make sure that they are only entering the type of information you want them to enter.  Making the Period field validate with "Not Empty" will ensure that they put a value here and don't forget.  You can even set up the fields so that if someone enters a time of 13:00, the Period recognizes that they mean 1 PM and fill in both fields.


                      Another way to do this could be to link the Start and End time of the user with the times they can enter.  So if Joe Smith works between 8AM and 5PM, he will never have a work time of 9PM.  If he enters 9 in the time field, it will know that he must mean 9am since he never works at 9PM.

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