By Libby Maurer, Widen Product Manager, with Deanna Ballew and the Widen Product Team
As consumers of web-based technologies, we’re often faced with interface updates when we least expect them, leaving us wondering why. We’d like to offer a peek behind the curtain and share the “why” behind what’s new and different with the Media Collective in version 8.0.
As part of our ongoing commitment to deliver a reliable product and user experience that delights, our product and development teams invest many hours researching trends in user interface design, studying mental models to understand how users think, identifying emerging technologies to build on existing Media Collective framework, and comparing feature sets offered in web-based solutions in and outside of the digital asset management space. We complement those research efforts with insight into how customers use their Media Collective sites, frequently interviewing users from a range of industries, and carefully considering customer feedback in our product decisions. We also practice something that can't be measured or quantified: empathy. It's putting ourselves in your shoes to ask how we can make your work better through our product design. Empathy also means driving change when we feel confident it's in our customers' best interest.
For this particular release we aimed to address these main points, some of which you shared in our feedback loop.
1. Screen real estate. We have grown our feature set dramatically over the last three years, and we expect the trend to continue. To allow the interface to scale with each new feature and not detract from the user experience, it became necessary to create new real estate on certain key pages.
2. Left panel search usability. The category tree and refine search filters used a “window shade” effect to show or hide the contents of each section. On sites with many categories and/or filters, opening and closing the window shades created a jarring experience with categories and search filters competed for space.
3. Underwhelming Welcome page. The Dashboard lacked the information you’d expect to find on a home screen and offered little customization. Some administrators shared the concern that it did not create an inviting experience that would encourage user adoption.
Our strategy to address this list was to design for the largest persona group, which we identified as those who spend most of their time in the Media Collective searching for and distributing content. While we prioritized our work mainly for the general user, we aimed to balance it with administrator needs.
Site Branding: Giving You More Control
We know that providing a branded experience is important to you. We’ve balanced this business need with a clean interface that allows users to navigate the site efficiently and allows users and administrators to customize certain areas of their sites.
The Dashboard offers several custom options administrators can use to further their brand, including customizing system messages, spotlight searches and spotlight collections. We hope you own this space and enjoy the customization options. In addition, we’ve exposed a suite of site branding tools administrators can use to make updates at any time to their login page and other branded elements of the site.
Ultimately, using the customization options, you gain more control. Over time, these changes will allow us to extend branding options to other areas of the site, like external facing pages and collections.
Searching and Categories: Setting A Trend
Presentation of categories was part of a much larger exploration of the search experience. As an essential function of DAM, we believe it's important to support multiple mental models that accommodate different ways of thinking. With the 8.0 release, the Media Collective offers category searching for broad searching, quick searching for users who know what they want, and spotlight searching for targeted content that shares certain attributes.
The traditional "tree" structure for categories is somewhat outdated. You will notice e-commerce sites, like Best Buy and Amazon, have departed from using it, often guiding users to select from a simple list of parent departments and narrowing results. While DAM isn't exactly e-commerce, we aim to create a familiar experience for users. Familiarity is important because it helps to advance user adoption of your DAM system.
This is especially true of sites that had exceptionally long trees and category hierarchies that were more than four levels deep. It creates an overwhelming number of options for searchers and can enable sloppy organization over time. Simply put, there are more efficient ways to search, and those have been implemented with the 8.0 release.
By moving the parent categories to their own menu (the Categories menu at the top of the site), we're "chunking" the data so it's more digestible. After a parent category is selected, users are taken down a refinement path using the child categories in the left navigation. The new menu also eliminates horizontal scrolling that occurred with long category names.
Navigation: Getting Outside "The Box"
Our former design made use of tabs to navigate between content. You'd click on a tab and see another box of information, which created a box-within-a-box look. With an increasing amount of data to report (generated from new features, as noted above), this layout ate up valuable real estate, cutting into search results and creating what felt like a very closed space.
Moving to dedicated pages that display your search results and details about uploads, exports and collections (as well as a few new pages) freed up space in search results and allows for more details to be shown on the pages. This design gives us flexibility to scale with additional information and creates a more modern, spacious look.
Selection Panel: Your Shadow
Relocating the Selection panel to the upper right corner of the page streamlines your navigation path. Before 8.0, you had to navigate back to search results to view your selected assets. Now, if you have at least one asset selected, the Selection panel travels with you as you navigate the Dashboard and Asset Details page. It also allows the left panel to be a focused area for refining search results using categories and filters.
In future releases, you will see updates to the Asset Details page and several additional areas of the Media Collective. We’ll be sharing more details about these updates in the weeks ahead.
If you'd like to learn more about version 8.0 of the Media Collective and how to make the most of the updates that were completed, check out the video tutorials, which are available in the admin Media Collective Support Center, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
We welcome your group discussion and questions in the Widen Collective group on LinkedIn. If you'd like to be even more involved by providing feedback throughout the product development process, email email@example.com to talk about your interests.