Noteworthy

· · design

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In the new activeCollab we wanted to offer a great way to write, share and read project notes. When we set out to design the successor to notebooks and text documents, we had several goals in mind:

The reading experience is as important as the writing experience. The new ActiveCollab features a beautiful new layout for note pages that puts content in the spotlight, with a gorgeous font that begging to be read.

Our team also worked to remove all the obstacles that could stand in your way when you wanted to write a note. In ActiveCollab 4 you need to think about content categorisation before you start writing (you need to pick or create a notebook). It’s not a lot of work, but it is still not ideal because there’s a step you need to take before you can start doing what you actually want to do - writing. We’ve removed that step in the new activeCollab. When you need to write, the New Note button is a click away and you are not required to categorise content before starting.

As a consequence, content categorisation is completely optional in the new version (and that’s good news). Our data showed a troubling percentage of notebooks that had only one page. These notebooks got created not because they were needed or because they added value, but because they were required if people wanted to write a project note.

After testing a couple of models and designs, we decided to replace the notebook concept with something equally effective, yet much simpler. People start by adding project notes. There’s no upfront requirement (except having something to say) - just write notes. When they grow in number and you feel the need to sort them a bit, you can simply drag one note onto another to create a “pile of notes.” Topmost note acts as a “cover” and gives the name and description to the pile. Piles can be browsed, managed and exported, as if they were notebooks.

“Pile of notes” paradigm was taken from the real world. Look around yourself and you’ll probably see a pile of paper somewhere. This real world paradigm works surprising well in the digital form. Check out this short video to see just how effective it is:

Upgrade

Upgrade path for all existing data is provided and you don’t need to worry about your content. Text documents from Files section will become notes under the Notes tab. Notebooks and all of their pages will be automatically converted to piles of notes where the notebook is the topmost note, and all pages go as notes underneath it. All attachments, comments and subscriptions are also carried over to the new system.

Conclusion

Transformation of text documents and notebooks into notes is a perfect example how Feather principles are making activeCollab a better and friendlier product. User and intended action (reading and writing in this case) have absolute priority.

Power feature that mainly bigger teams are taking advantage of (note categorization) is optional, yet discoverable and easy to use.

Please let us know on Twitter if you enjoyed this “thinking behind the change” story and if you would like to read more articles like this one.

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