Better record keeping

Pete Randall
 • 
Oct 2020
4 min read

The daily reality for a lot of busy teams still involves a lot of manual, repetitive record keeping. This won’t change any time soon — most of it’s critical for running a secure and efficient business.

But it doesn’t need to be so painful. Record keeping shouldn’t be an extra job on top of the actual job.

Trail was designed to make the working day easier. But after talking to hundreds of front & back of house teams, we realised record keeping was the single most painful part of their job.

So we set out to fix it and came up with three principles.

1. Fast 🚀

Digitising paperwork isn’t just about security & reliability. It has to actually make repetitive data entry easier and cut the admin overhead that takes managers and chefs and service staff away from their actual job. This means:

  • Remove unnecessary fields, and pre-populate wherever possible
  • Redesign common fields (numbers, dates) and add new ones (long text)
  • Display the best view for the job, whether a table or form or a mix of both
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Multiple views for your data

2. Clear 🧐

Many widgets have powerful settings that haven’t always been clear to teams or managers. This includes automating data entry or limiting permissions. So we set out to:

  • Educate users when they come to entering data
  • Configure the most common settings for Admins
  • Validate the data reliably and prompt the user to action
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Users are alerted when entered data falls outside the acceptable range

3. Strong 💪

The old widgets were holding us back on innovation. The new system should be solid — both online and offline — and pave the way for automated, invisible data collection. This means:

  • Rebuild the underlying architecture to support future functionality
  • Flexible enough to support user input, system input and external input
  • Simple enough for users to configure themselves
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Managers can set up fridge names which teams cannot edit

Introducing the Record Log

The data entry experience has been reimagined from the ground up. After months of user testing, we’re ready to rollout Record Logs.

The first big innovation here is in the relationship between two modes — entering data and reviewing the data. Both have completely different requirements, so we split the experience into two views:

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Record logs have a primary view for entering information quickly

Form view

This is where the data is entered. The user completes one record at a time, down through the fields, which is better usability on both mobile and desktop.

However, we discovered records aren’t always completed in the same order. So we’ve introduced a column on the left, with a row per record. This allows the user to jump between records, as they would in a spreadsheet.

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Record logs also have a "form view" for reviewing all recorded data

Table view

This is the log of every record entered, displayed in the most effective way for multiple entries.

Tables can be printed and exported to other systems in a structured and space-efficient way.

What next?

Data entry and record keeping aren’t going away any time soon, so the first thing is to make it fast.

The next step is to chip away at every friction point until none remain — record keeping becomes automated and invisible. External input types like voice commands, Bluetooth and APIs will pump data directly into Trail, leaving the user just to review & approve, or simply be alerted on exception.

With all that data, the system can start learning trends, shaping staff habits and taking care of the majority of the unnecessary repetitive data entry.

This is just the beginning…