Zoho Creator or PHP based solution?

A lot of Zoho users want to extend the capability that Zoho CRM provides out of the box. For example, one of our clients wanted to build a custom Quote Generator. They initially wanted to get the customization done to default Zoho CRM Quote form but their requirements were not implementable inside Zoho CRM. For example, they wanted to show only a limited set of products and contacts with default lookups at the time of quote generation based on for which Account quote is being generated. They wanted to maintain the search capability Zoho lookup popup provides. Zoho CRM by default shows all the products and contacts and there is no way to restrict this with solutions available within CRM (like with custom functions, workflow rules etc). So they wanted entire Quote generation module to be customized in Zoho Creator.

In Zoho Creator they wanted:

1. Start of the process on click of a Custom button or link in Zoho CRM Account (take user to Zoho Creator Quote module).

2. Autofill selected Account’s information in Zoho Creator Quote form.

3. Same look and feel of Quote module in Creator that CRM Quote module gives.

4. Instant error messages if the user makes a mistake.

5. Instant calculations to reflect updated figures on UI (like Net price based on discount and tax).

6. Intelligent lookups to restrict Products and Contacts based on selected Account.

7. Save Quote with selected products, taxes, discounts etc.

8. Share a link with selected contact so that they could view the Quote even without having the login for Zoho CRM.

9. Contact should be able to Approve or Decline Quote and also sign the quote online.

10. Auto email sending on different events with the PDF attachment of the quote.

11. Saving of user signature, approval/decline status etc in Zoho Creator.

12. Search, View and edit existing quotes.

While most of it can be built in Zoho Creator, there are few problems with it, some of which are:

1. It takes longer to write the code as fundamental web development elements like session variables, ajax and javascript support are missing in Zoho Creator. So one needs to reload pages on every button click and use Zoho Creator views as temporary storage space.

2. Zoho’s retrieval limit of 200 records per API call creates obstacles.

3. Due to absence of Javascript, user cannot experience instant response (when user makes a mistake, reflecting instant calculations etc). This also makes the whole solution less user friendly than web development based solution in a language like PHP.

4. Zoho Creator’s form/page sharing feature in Creator is also limited and tricks need to be applied to achieve sharing of forms/pages with non-Zoho users while compromising with UI design.

Our honest recommendation in development of complex features like above is to build it as a Website based solution. It takes lesser time to create a more powerful solution. Integration with Zoho CRM can still be achieved with Zoho CRM API.

So what is Zoho Creator good for? First of all Zoho Creator is a good solution in case you do not need instant feedback as Ajax and Javascript are missing. Also, it is good in case you do not need to link multiple forms back and forth. If you have isolated forms then it is a good solution. It is good for Web to Lead forms that utilize the inbuilt mechanism of Zoho to populate data in CRM. It is also good to receive inputs from an external URL call, process it and update/insert some records in CRM. So it has its own applications and based on your requirement, we recommend the best solution to you.

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