12 Jan Web portal 2.0 brings death to horizontal scrolling
Our partner web portal has evolved quite a bit since its initial launch in 2005. Originally, it was focused on helping partners manage their online backup accounts for their customers. Over the years, we’ve added local backup, email archiving, and recently BDR hardware monitoring and configuration. There’s a lot more information for each account than there used to be. There’s also quite a few new account actions and reports as well. While the interface is highly functional and streamlined for the common tasks, it also screams information overload. And let’s just say it wasn’t going to win awards for its aesthetic appeal anytime soon.
Our web portal has long been overdue for a comprehensive overhaul. It’s been a long time in coming, but we feel you will not be disappointed! Can’t wait to try it? Login here. Here’s a quick preview to keep your interest:
Now, here’s what we set out to accomplish:
Death to horizontal scrolling. Our own #1 complaint about the old interface (and we’re 100% sure it’s your #1 complaint too) — the account list had so much information you had to constantly scroll horizontally back and forth. It’s the virtual equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. Horizontal scrolling might work for some sites that foster an edgy design and don’t also scroll vertically (some examples), especially if the mouse wheel still works. But scrolling in both directions? Few things are worse torture.
We avoided horizontal scrolling in our new design by organizing different kinds of information into 4 “views,” each suited towards specific work tasks. Account Details, Contact Information, Resource Usage, and Account Status. You can instantly switch between these views without having to wait for the data to reload. Voila! No more finding-that-tiny-horizontal-scrollbar pain, and without any extra waiting time from additional page loads. You can have your cake and eat it too.
Optimize use of screen space. This one goes hand in hand with the previous one. Since there truly is so much information, it has to go somewhere. Sometimes you need to see it, sometimes you don’t. Enter the account details pane, which is docked to the bottom of the browser window. To show the details pane, double click an account, or right click and choose “Show/Hide Details.” While it’s visible, the information in the pane automatically populates as you change the currently selected account, all without having to talk to our web server, for lightning fast access to information. When it’s hidden, it stays out of your way, so you can get the most out of your screen trying to view all those accounts you have.
No page reloads. This is considered one of the hallmarks of a true “Web 2.0” application, so we need not go into too much detail. Suffice it to say, the new web portal is AJAXian to its core. ‘Nuf said.
The #1 offender in my opinion? Google. Ever try to right click a link in a Google search result and email the link to a friend, only to find the URL is 4 lines of text? Seriously, why should a search result for www.efolder.net become something like http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=3CGYOFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.efolder.net%2F&ei=AGBtTej5PMG88geco6iPQC&usg=AFQjCKDeqlQ7WP-vSwpDp43R5H4HI2d3aE ? Come on Google, you love simplicity; why obfuscate your URLs?!
Our previous web portal was careful to follow this design rule, and we made sure that despite the richness of the new user interface, we wouldn’t force our users to live through “URL hell.” For example: when you left click on the View Remote Backup Log icon, it will show the latest log within an embedded log viewer (2.0 style!). But you can still right click and choose “Open in new window” or copy hyperlink and it will do the right thing. We try hard not to get in your way.
Easy account creation. Click the add account button on the toolbar, and up pops the new create account wizard. It’s easy to create a new customer, or add accounts to an existing customer. It guides you through step by step:
Edit multiple accounts at the same time. Some of our partners manage hundreds or even thousands of accounts. Updating certain settings individual for each account by hand becomes mind-numbingly painful and a waste of time. Doing this in the new web portal is easy. Select one or more accounts that you want to edit, right click, choose an action, and it will perform the action on every selected account. Especially common scenarios: updating a notification email address, converting one of many sub-accounts into the new parent account, and changing the account service plan. Any action is supported.
The system is smart enough to only perform the action for the accounts where it would make sense to do so. For example, if you selected all of your accounts, but then performed the “Extend Expiration Date” action, it would only actually perform the action for trial accounts, not billable accounts.
Ease pain of timed automatic logouts. Ever go through the account creation form and almost finish, but then get interrupted by a long phone call, only to come back, click submit, and be told you have to login again and fill out the form again? Yeah, we’ve been there. In the new web portal, when you submit any action, if you’ve been logged out due to a timeout, it will show a modal dialog allowing you to login, and then it will let you try again without reinputting data if you wish. Or if you don’t want to login again just yet, just click cancel, and you’ll be taken back to what you were doing (with all form fields intact, etc.):
Use dialog windows for complex tasks. In the previous web portal, certain actions (like changing the mailing address associated with an account) required impersonating that account, choosing the correct location from the top menu, performing the action, and ending the impersonation session. We’ve eliminate the most common reasons to impersonate an account through dialog windows. For example, here’s the window to edit the details of an account:
Avoid obscure text hyperlinks (like [S]). There sure were a lot of these obscure bracketed text-style hyperlinks in the old web portal. Once you got the hang of them, they made enough sense, but for new or returning users, it’s not always obvious. And waiting for the tooltip to popup to explain is annoying. Now, all actions to manipulate accounts are organized into the context menu. Just right click and choose the command.
Avoid commands that jump to another part of the page. In our previous web portal, commands that required additional input would jump down the page a ways and ask for additional input (e.g., select the service plan from a list). For example, if you now choose to change the service plan, here’s what will popup:
Automatically convert units and common date formats. Users shouldn’t have to remember if a field expects a value in MB or requires that a date be specified in YYYY-MM-DD format. In the new web portal, you can type “1.5 gb” or “1536 mb” and it knows what you mean. And all dates are selected by a calendar pick tool.
Emphasize status. We give you lots of visual queues when something is wrong with an account, so you’ll be sure to notice. Row background colors, icons on the left, etc. For those who find all that green annoying, you can set it to only show row colors for accounts with warnings and errors. Speaking of which… When combined with our all-in-one dash panel status report, email notifications, and PSA integration (e.g., ConnectWise), you’ll always be sure you’ll know about any kind of error or warning, whether it be for online backup, local backup, email archiving, or the BDR.
Make everything customizable, and remember what you customize. Feel free to re-arrange columns (drag/drop), hide/show columns in different views, change color schemes, turn off status colors, etc. All of these customizations are saved into a browser cookie, so power users won’t have to continually retweak the interface to their liking.
We hope you like the new web portal. Access it by going to the Accounts menu and choosing Account Center:
Of course, the old interface is still accessible as well. You’ll still need that if you want to export your data to a CSV or XLS file, or if you happen to like horizontal scrolling.
We’ve just hit the highlights here; dive in, and give us feedback on your experience!