Just Tell Me What To Do: A New, Actionable, Task-Focused Dashboard

User Experience, User Interface

Property of NewsCred, in collaboration with Pei Chien and Alena Gribskov


In Q4 of 2018, NewsCred made the strategic decision to broaden its platform’s functionality. The enterprise SaaS company had cemented its position as industry-leader in the content marketing category, but there was increasing market demand for a platform that would also serve as an operating system for global marketing teams. This new platform would not only allow content marketers to plan, find and publish content, facilitate workflows, and measure results, but also enable global teams to collaborate, manage budgets, govern user roles and permissions, measure operational efficiency, and enforce unified taxonomies across teams. We responded to those demands by embarking on a journey to build what marketers truly needed.

Keeping an ear to the ground

Months before the announcement, we began noticing patterns in customer feedback. There were an increasing number of requests for an improved dashboard, where users could isolate their tasks and quickly take action. An analysis of our competitors' platforms also informed our squad there was room for improvement in surfacing relevant, tailored, information right from the homepage.

To further understand how it was being used, we dove into the analytics of our existing dashboard. Despite being the most visited area of the platform (it sees 40% more visitors than the second-most visited area), our old dashboard had the least amount of time spent in any area other than Settings (about three minutes total per week for customers and four and a half minutes for internal users). We suspected low usage was a result of the dashboard's widgets not being targeted towards a particular persona's interests and needs — a suspicion we sought to validate.

15 days ago

This is the same issue we’re having with [customer] as there’s just no way for someone to apply a filter for anything that’s assigned to them. It’s going to be a blocker.

1 month ago

[Customer] asked for a revamped dashboard as the current one provides no value 😔

Oct 14th at 9:14 AM

It’s a recurring theme that we’ve heard from users: non-admin users struggle to know when to action and which items to action.

June 14th at 9:20 AM

Sounds like [prospect] really wants us in the next round and gave us specific feedback to address. The biggest was our dashboard is weak and not useful. They are looking for a solution to be more productive and collaborative, and focused on improved work.

May 11th at 11:48 AM

I know a few [customer]'s IME team members have wanted the dashboard to be more Task oriented i.e. knowing what your to do's are rather than measuring content performance.
Real feedback from customers and colleagues who were less than thrilled with the current dashboard.
The old dashboard — which featured widgets centered around analytics and content optimization — demanded an overhaul to suit the needs of our new IME userbase.

Soliciting more feedback

Since the dashboard has such high visiblity and opportunity for impact, it was an exciting challenge to begin working on. The first step was to find out what information should be displayed and prioritized. To understand this, our UX Director led an interactive workshop where stakeholders from every team were asked to create the ideal dashboard, based on direct feedback they had received from customers and prospects, and how they used the product themselves. The UX director handed out paper, scissors, and a marker, and asked participants to draw their most valuable widgets, cut them out, and arrange them to create their perfect dashboard. We documented their name, team, and role, so we could understand their use cases and ask follow-up questions, if necessary. At the end of the exercise, we went around the room to discuss why they chose what they chose and how it would help their customers.

This exercise proved to be very valuable. It taught us to focus on two user personas: the Manager, who is overseeing the work, and the Contributor, who is doing the work. We were also able to compile a list of the eight most commonly-requested widgets.

Some results from an interactive workshop led by our Director of UX, which helped us determine what personas and widgets to focus on.

Low fidelity wireframes and iterations

The next step was to produce low-fidelity wireframes based on our new insights. We presented each wireframe to customers and colleagues, asking questions like "What action would you take?" "What are you not seeing that would help you get more work done, faster?" and "What would you expect to happen if you clicked X?" and iterated based on additional feedback.

Early wireframes for the new dashboard.

Medium- to high-fidelity designs

With aligned goals of A) shipping quickly in order to iterate and B) reducing visual noise, we reduced the scope of the project by including only the two widgets we heard were the most important. Once we gathered sufficient data on how this MVP would be used, we could iterate on it by including additional widgets, the ability to customize and reconfigure the page, and switch views.

The most recent design (we can't quite call it "final" yet) provides the user with 'Tasks' and 'Recently Viewed' widgets. The Tasks widget includes tabs for "My Tasks," which allows the user to view only tasks where the current step in a workflow is assigned to them. The most urgent tasks are always at the top, prioritizing overdue and off track tasks. It also includes a "Team's Tasks" tab of the list, which displays all tasks where the current step in a workflow is assigned to a teammate of the user. This way, the user can take a quick glance at all tasks they are associated with, and parse the information in order to understand their responsibilities. The second widget is 'Recently Viewed,'' which, like many online platforms, surfaces objects the user most recently accessed. Our software has a deep architecture, so it's easy to lose track of where something is — we think a list of items the user most recently visited will help solve this problem. We are currently considering a 'Favorited' widget in lieu of 'Recently Viewed,' as we have received some feedback that it may be more valuable to quickly access objects a user has proactively deemed important to them. We are continuing to gather feedback on the most recent designs and shooting for an H1 2020 release.

An early, medium-fidelity version of the dashboard we showed to a prospect. We were told it was too noisy and users weren't sure what to look at or how to act.

"My Tasks" tab — in a collaborative, team-oriented, efficiency-centric environment, users can quickly visualize and understand what is on their plate and which of those tasks is most urgent.

"Team's Tasks" tab — users can understand the current workflow step their team members are working on.

Prototype showing content changing when the user changes tabs.

Link map to understand how the new dashboard affects other areas of the platform.