After coming out with our Tags feature for People, we got to thinking about how far we've come technologically with how we organize data in the church.
Back in the days before computers, we as churches relied on lots of paper. Sadly, many trees were massacred in the name of attendance and financial records. Paper had one BIG limitation though; If you didn't have a good way of organizing it you would have a huge hot mess of papers scattered across your desktop (not a computer desktop but a literal desktop). ?
This is why folders and filing cabinets come in really handy. No more scattered papers and clutter! Just amazingly beautiful organizational bliss.
Once computers came to the scene, we still made them function in a way that was familiar to most of us for so long. This gave birth to the desktop and folders. With folders we could store other folders, and files within those other folders. Often times we would put that main file on the desktop or have a shortcut to the main hard drive (filing cabinet). Either way, the idea of folders in the physical realm carried over to the digital one.
Folders have limitations. For starters, if you want a file to be in multiple places you have to make copies of it. On top of this, keeping a standard organization of folders and files means that many people can have unnecessary folders with nothing in them. In ChurchTrac, User-Defined Fields are basically like folders. We ❤ User-Defined Fields, but they still have their limitations.
For example, let's say you have a User-Defined Field called "Background Check". This field can have either a YES or a NO in it which designates whether or not a person has been background checked. A UD field like this is fantastic for keeping track of the people that have and have not gone through a background check (think children ministry workers). However, only a small percentage of your actual congregation is going to have a background check. Thus comes the question: Why have every single person have a UD field of "Background Check" when it only applies to the small percentage? That's why we made TAGS.
TAGS can help us cut down on the number of User-Defined fields while also doing a much better job of keeping our people organized.
Using User-Defined Fields to label for "Background Check".
Using Tags to label for "Background Check".
TAGS VS User-Defined Fields in a nutshell ?
Tags are best for organizing (think labeling) your people. User-Defined Fields are better for storing some sort of data for all your people.
Good Tag examples: Background Check, Musician, Hospitality Team, Welcome Team, Johns Life Group, Small Group Leader
Good User-Defined Field examples: Baptism Date, Anniversary, Liability PDF Attachment, Marital Status
Are Tags better than User-Defined Fields?
When it comes to simple organization, Tags are far superior to User-Defined Fields. They make it easier to search for segments of people and quickly sort them by custom Tags. This is why we are seeing such a push to Tags across many platforms. We've seen it in Mac and Windows for the past few years and it's carrying over to many other online platforms.
But... Tags cannot store unique data for individuals like UD Fields. For that reason they will always be needed and won't be going anywhere.