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With love from Australia – “&&”

Zoho Creator | September 28, 2010 | 4 min read

We are glad to introduce to you, Ben Johnston of

Double Ampersand

, better known as LB. He is a

Zoho Creator

 App developer who helps organizations in getting started with Zoho Creator as their business solution. It is his business solution as well. LB sorts out Youth Alive’s mess of multiple spreadsheets, and replaces them with a hassle-free online database application: Zoho Creator. This is a guest post by him, in which he shares his experience of working with

Youth Alive

, Queensland, and what they think of their new-found database application. 

Hey all,

lb here from Double Ampersand. I recently stepped 100% into the cloud computing game and I have been setting up Zoho Creator solutions for clients. I would like to share some of my experiences with you – ie  how the process went with the client, how they used the system and what we are using it for now.

Youth Alive Queensland, a non-for-profit organization that helps local youth groups and runs events for mainly high school ages all throughout Queensland, was my client. They only have about three main people in the office but they have multiple volunteers in constant flux (up to 100 at a main event). There are also regional directors that look after the youth groups, churches and individuals in set areas throughout



Before we got started with them they had multiple copies of the same excel spreadsheet being circulated. To say it was a mess would be putting it lightly. After rounds of edits and updates, no two copies had the same set of data – syncing them all became a major hassle.

Over time, frustration crept in and they were looking out for a better solution. Inherent shortcomings of MS Access [desktop solution] and DabbleDB made us try out Zoho Creator (I had already setup a Zoho Creator solution for two other clients), and it was a perfect fit.

The pricing was a bonus, aside from the database development costs – the monthly cost to the company is negligible and a monthly fee is easier to maintain in the budgets than the price for a software package. The client started with a smaller package and has recently stepped up the database size with other lists and sections needed.

The development of the application was based on the data they initially had. A discussion with the client on what they had in mind ensued, and then emails poured in – a mess of multiple spreadsheets and emails and text lists from all over the place. After getting these into specific spreadsheets and matching the column headers with what the Zoho Forms were – it was time to import.

Importing was relatively easy – Zoho Creator offers a few methods to
import; cut & paste from Excel worked mostly and where it was a bit
buggy we used the downloadable Import from Database tool. Through the
process, the Zoho Creator support team helped a bit with some issues I was having – and they were fast and easy to work with. 

Developer note:

I would definitely recommend building your form first (ie. build form from scratch), then when you are happy with how the form works and validation works import the data into that already created form. This means that you are importing the data into the system that is 100% ready for other data.

The finished application looked neat – a few sections, a sweet dashboard which sums up information about the database and a few other nice stats, also on the dashboard (first page that loads) is a link to the conditions of use for the database.

There were some features not used as much as initially planned, but for the most part the client was  completely happy with the system. And after some training they have also started to edit some of the forms themselves which empowers them to take ownership of their database and their system.

Developer Note:

Always check your form sharing/menu structure before handing over to the client, when you are logged in as admin/developer it is easy to miss what forms/views you may have created and not shared correctly or added edit permissions for example.

Down the Track:

About four months after setting up the database, they are realizing more and more how great it is and are probably more happy with it then when they first had it setup.

We have recently added another awesome form that is worth telling about.

Transaction system for event merchandise sales:

Three days before a major event (8000 in attendance), I got a call . Four different bands from all over Australia were performing at their event. Each of those bands had merchandise, different pricing, different stocks. They needed to manage all this information at the venue and also take care of the sales, leftover stocks etc.

We setup a simple transaction system in Zoho Creator, the benefit of using Zoho is that it is flexible and setting up something like this was a breeze. What needed 4 manned stalls last time around now required just a simple Zoho Creator form that took care of all the details and also made it easier to place orders. We made the form public and setup laptops at the merchandise desk.

The online aspect of Zoho Creator shined here – all we needed was a laptop with an internet connection and we suddenly had a fully working register system! We had three on the night, but setting up thirty would have been just as easy. At the end of the night, we turned off the laptops and gave them back to each owner, nothing stored locally on the laptop and no files to transfer/merge/count etc.

In Closing:

Zoho Creator is a great system, I have used a bunch of systems like it and it has the best mix of features and pricing with the usability that I feel empowers the end users and makes them feel like they don’t have to fork out heaps of $$ each time they want a new feature/form.

Youth Alive Queensland love their Zoho Creator system and would recommend it to other organizations.

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