We recently rolled out a new front page to our platform, affectionately known as "The Hub". As with all platforms, this was not the first homepage we'd created, and definitely won't be the last one either, but definitely gives a hint of where our user experience is going.
And whilst there are other platforms with calendar views out there, we'd like to think that both the thought of what has gone into it, and how we got there sets us apart. Not to mention our roadmap of exciting new features that are in the pipeline.
So how did it begin? I think the best way to answer that is to go back to the very beginning of when David and me conceived the scrmhub platform. It came about as a solution to a problem we had in the agency we worked at, We Are Social. Namely there were a lot of tasks that were labour intensive that we felt could be automated more and therefore save time and money.
The first example of a task we kept doing was activation (application) building, which typically tied up a developer, designer and producer for a week at a time, even though they were repetitive. This gave us the idea not only for activation builder (a new version of that is being released in the coming months), but also some of the data opportunities having a unified platform for these marketing activities. At this point we only had a list of activation, and some numbers. That's the boring part so I won't dwell on that.
Ok, one thing we did that was a bit different and a bit of fun was make the outer circles expand out from the center when you clicked - we're big believers in a fun as well as functional experience.
The next area of focus was on data collection combined with a dashboard offering. Those two things are big tasks, but suddenly we feeding the machine we'd envisioned. As with all things, we went truly in a the deep end here. Our first project was collecting a massive amount of data for a business collecting none:
Trust me, when you're polling data every 30 seconds you hit a lot of technical issues. But that's not what this article is about.
That data excited us! We were finally building a data set that we could dive into and doing cool things with. Command centres that could be shown on TV screens were our first stop. They highlighted core metrics like engagement, fan growth and hot (and not so hot) content to name a few.
For our clients, they were what they'd been looking for! Something that clearly showed how they were performing as a business. Something that highlighted what was working for them as a business. And something that kept their staff engaged with their online social media activity. Ultimately, it lead to people stopping to watch what was happening across their global ecosystem.
Those dashboards, combined with the notifications we were building led us to create our next homepage which lasted us a year. But it was tucked away and most our analytics showed that most clients tended to bypass it.
So what's next? We've got activations for running promotions. We've got data for analysing pages and content. And finally we've got dashboards to visualise how these things are performing. This led us to content programming.
Coming from within the largest Social Media agency in the world, we were keen to try and get content programming away from spreadsheets and into a more collaborative online form. We were also fans of timeline views as they allow you to see what is happening at any time in any direction. E.g. you can fly into the future or amble into the past.
With the timeline view, we aimed to be different. To give users something that was fun, playful and different. Using a continuous scroll we allowed the user to realise this rolling timeframe. They could also search the timeline, see what months had content, and which didn't.
We also added a user approval flow. Again, we want this to be different but also familiar, with a real focus on encouraging users to engage and manage within our interface and not in a spreadsheet.
And the final core thing - and the thing we are most proud of - was our previews. This may sound trivial, but it's not something that's easy to do. Our interface allowed user to see a preview of each platform as well as allowing you to customise for each platform it was going to. This is no small feat, trust me.
And finally we get to our newest - and by far, the one we're most proud of - homepage. The Hub!
We'd always had a vision to have a calendar view for users as it's something that is both familiar and easy to use. Everyone knows how to use the calendar on their phones or the desktop tools such as Outlook - and let's not forget that paper one almost everyone has on the wall of their kitchen. This single place would be where you manage your content program, activation plan, campaigns. Basically everything in your marketing plan would be here (or will be as we add them).
But, how do we make it something that feels like our own? How do we create something that is both familiar but totally unique? Our user experience team set about reviewing everything we had, our usage stats and interviewing people within the industry.
What they came back with feels distinctly like a scrmhub product yet very familiar to everyone. Starting with the basics of a month and week view. Building onto the continuously scrolling day view (familiar to anyone that uses a modern iPhone or Android smartphone).
The timeline itself show the all too familiar single and multi day items, but with some additional pointers such as the state (draft, approved, live, etc) as well as the platforms it's going to. Part of the challenge was balancing the amount of information to be useful, whilst at the same time not feeling cluttered. Multi-day items presented another challenge. The choice was to stack bars on top of each other or come up with a real neat, clear way to show the start and end date of these items.
Every item on the hub has a hover and click preview of the item which provides core metrics and a summary of what the item is. It also tells you information such as the approval state for quick access.
Then came the search and management panel. The solution that was create provide a good balance with enough quick navigation and search options, whilst not feeling 'geeky' - that is still a thing.
And finally comes our creation tools. In reviewing the flow and approach to creation, the team made use of some of their previous work to make creating content and activations as simple as 1.. 2...3... The step by step approach allowed us to massively simplify some areas from the user's point of view and giving them a streamlined interface.
As you can tell, we're rather proud of where the journey has brought us so far, but it's is not yet over and as we all know, the journey is the reward.
But as a teaser we are excited to be integrating our MRT (Marketing Recommendation Technology) into The Hub soon. This will give marketers of all levels a new type of artificial intelligence assistant.
We really hope that it will empower our SMB and enterprises customers to be even better marketers. And if you haven't tried it, why not come and give it a try. Sign up is free from small businesses.
Greg has a passion for what AI and Deep Learning can bring to the MarTech stack and how small and medium businesses can benefit from these new technologies.
He has over 20 years experience as an engineer and product developer, having worked for significant global marketing agencies, Razorfish and We Are Social.
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