29 August 2012

Be good, always help

In some work for the Analytics SEO re-design, one of colleagues liked the idea of giving users some information from a drop down.

Okay, let's step back a bit. You know that on many sites in the top (and often right) there are links to various user account functions: things like the user name and avatar, link to my account, log / sign out, and so on. Well, DropBox put all of these into an overlay which is shown when the user clicks on their name. We had the same idea but there was a strong business requirement to make these links omnipresent. This meant no overlay because it didn't have any meaningful content.

However, my wireframe showed extra information: the user's full name and email address, how many sites they have, a link to the upgrade channel, and the links to account and sign out (figure 1). My colleague liked this and suggested that we offered more information about the user's account.

After some discussion, it was clear that our numbers make scaling hard. Some users will have (e.g.) a few thousand monitored keywords; others will have millions or tens of millions (I kid you not - we're enterprise software).

So the design had to clearly communicate the contents for a range of numbers - from single digits to 8 or even 9; and all contained within an overlay.

I also thought that each number could communicate a message to users so that they're warned if they're over their limits (and paying more than they expect) and also if they have unused capacity. Figure 2 shows the plan as it is right now. It needs to be validated against our business criteria (by business, tech and testing), and (ideally!) tested against users. We don't have a lot of resources, so it's guerilla testing for us!

The benefits of this design are:

  • Users can get a quick overview of their plan and capacity - this information is otherwise hidden away somewhere in the 'settings'.
  • Users are clearly warned if they're over their plan's limits (note: this isn't the only warning I have designed)
  • Users can see if they need to upgrade or downgrade
  • Users have a simple path to change their plan easily if needed
  • Users can see what spare capacity they have before they incur further cost


  • Users might not find it immediately (it's in an overlay) and not omnipresent
  • It might encourage users to adopt a cheaper plan! Actually, this is okay with us. We'd rather have a happy customer paying a little amount for life rather than a big spend from someone who is unhappy

But from a quick eyeball, it seems to be quite nice and useful. Users are the true arbiters of that in UX so we have to wait and see... ;-)

I wonder if I'll be able to work any of this into the redesign of my main sites, Thought Into Design, and my own UX portfolio page.

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