DevSummit07:Redesigning an Interface for a Large User Base: The DIA Salsa Story

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Facilitated by April Pederson and Chris Lundberg, DemocracyInAction

DemocracyInAction has just completed a complete overhaul of their user interface, code named Salsa. April and Chris will explain the process they went through to engage their users and arrive at an improved user experience, including before-and-after demos of specific system features. Participants will be encouraged to bring their own questions and ideas to the discussion about best practices for evolving user interfaces without alienating existing users.

Session Notes follow...

DIA experienced feature creep

Checkbox mentality - customer demands to meet competitor features with RFPs ended up trying add every single feature

Then everyone started saying usability about 2 years ago

Usability - we kept hearing "your stuff isn't usable" We'd sit users in front of the app and ask them to do things and they would do things in one or two clicks

So what was the problem?

Bugs? Efficiency? Look & Feel?

User perceptions vs reality

Bugs can be fixed rapidly. Software can be made more efficient. Features are added constantly.

But we don't address Look & Feel. Decided to try to get perception to meet reality.

Paid a professional designer to go through the application step by step. Designer created Photoshops of each screen, making them look better. New layouts, colors, backgrounds, etc

- Perception -> Designer

- Broad users base of types

- Engineering features - buggy

- Complexity & Architecture

80/20 rule

What is the primary user task - if you make that simple and hide the complexity behind the interface, then you can make it more usable.

Organizations ranging from 0 to 50K to 3M supporters

Organization roles ranging from ED, Fundraising, IT, Volunteers, Supporters

Different roles and organization sizes demand different results, metrics, etc

Need to have user interface that spans this entire range

Old Drupal based design was tight but not perceived well by users

New design - every user has customized version of their home page Spent half a day just on logo (audience comment: that may be a speed record for logo selection)

Built a reporting engine that generates sql that appears on the bottom of the screen when the sql was removed, people complained because they liked seeing the report query

Use AJAX and tags in user interface to create Web 2.0 perception

Discussion of personnel and technical resources ensued

Alternative approaches: do it the dumb way, quickly, but you may have to bite the bullet and refactor later.