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Introducing the All New Samepage User Experience

March 19, 2020

Introducing the All New Samepage User Experience

Dear Friends and Customers,

Last Friday we introduced for new signups a new version of Samepage featuring a substantially reworked and improved user interface, as well as some important changes in functionality. This is a major redesign effort and it's not complete yet. In this article we want to explain why we are changing Samepage, what is different in the new interface, and what this will mean for you.

First, it is very important to say that your existing organizations will continue to work perfectly and we will continue to support them for a long while. We will support, fix bugs, address security issues and keep making some small improvements in the old UI throughout the entire support period. We are making these changes based on what we've learned from you over the past three years.

Over the past few years we made tremendous strides in adding new features and functionality to Samepage, based on your requests and feedback. Now it is time for us to take a fresh look at the overall user experience - how new users understand, adopt and onboard to Samepage, as well as how experienced users interact with Samepage. We are very excited and hope you will be as well. However, we also realize that change is hard, so we want to take it slowly and provide you with a path to get there with as little disruption as possible.

For now, there is nothing you need to do, rest assured!

Currently, we don't have a way to switch or migrate an existing organization to the new UI. Old and new are not 100% compatible, even though underneath both are still "Samepage". However, feel free to create a new organization for testing if you like. We'll be happy to show you around. Our desktop and mobile clients now support both UIs natively, and you are already familiar with switching organizations, so testing the new UI is easy.

Why are we changing Samepage?

We introduced our Teams environment in the middle of 2016 and it was a huge improvement over our previously on-premise based Legacy/Workspace environment. In the subsequent 3+ years, we have grown tremendously and learned a lot about building, delivering and supporting a world-class cloud collaboration system. Functionally, Samepage is an incredibly robust, mature, feature-rich platform. Many of you have been with us for a long time and can see the promise of Samepage becoming reality. We're incredibly proud of what we've been able to deliver over the years.

Through this process we've learned a great deal about UX, something that did not come naturally to us at first. While we've made some huge improvements to the overall UX, late last year we realized that improving things further required a fresh look at how users interact with and navigate through the product.

We reached this conclusion after deeply reflecting on consistent and contradictory net promoter scores and comments from our users. As you know, we ask our users every three months to provide us NPS feedback on Samepage. Overall, we do not score well. Our average paid NPS score has averaged between 15-20 since we started measuring paid NPS in mid-2018. It's considered "Good" but not great. We want to be great!

Most interesting are the comments we receive. For a long time, we've heard conflicting and diverse feedback, but over time we realized virtually all feedback fell into two categories:

  • Samepage is awesome, super intuitive, easy to use, a game-changer for our organization. I love it.
  • Samepage is awful, complex, confusing, hard to navigate, cluttered and difficult to use. I hate it.

Seriously! Slightly more than half of our paid users generally love Samepage, the other slightly less than half hate it. There really isn't much of a middle ground. We can, should, must and will do better for our customers and users.

As this realization set in with the whole team, we started to reflect deeply on why this is the case, and what can we do about it.

What is changing?

Quite a lot actually.

Replace Teams and Sub-teams with Folders & Sub-folders

Teams and sub-teams were designed to simplify access rights and improve grouping of content into containers of related information. They were also intended to provide a better task and project management experience. If you've learned to live with Teams & Sub-teams, you've overcome the usability challenges, but they clearly still exist. These include:

  • Team tabs are difficult for users to understand and lead to incorrect behaviors. Worse, they are inconsistent in behavior.
  • For example, team tasks allow for the creation of tasks disconnected from pages (pageless tasks), but then users don't understand why you cannot chat on tasks in teams, but you can on pages. Or many users only use Team Tasks and don't even know about the contextual benefit of tasks on pages.
  • Team chat is hard to explain and sometimes confusing (There are too many places to chat, we hear, and users are frequently confused where to chat)
  • Team Files are an even bigger problem. While tasks/events "roll-up" from pages to the Team Task and Event tabs, files on pages do not. Team Files behave completely differently than the other team tabs.
  • You can sync files in Team files, but files on pages don't synchronize.
  • When you have Tasks & Events in the dock and Team Task and Event tabs in teams, users get extremely confused how and where to create tasks.
  • Access rights are limited to the 3 types of team and only inherit down one level to sub-teams. Users frequently ask for more flexibility.
  • Access rights and notification settings are confusingly combined (if you are a member of an open team you get notifications, but you don't if you aren't a member)

Introducing Folders and Access Rights

In the new Samepage, you can create Folders and unlimited sub-folders with much more granular access rights at each level. This will make organizing and controlling access to content much easier and more flexible. Teams and Sub-teams will eventually be migrated to Folders and Sub-folders.

Redesigned Dock

Our dock and dock panels generally seemed like a good idea, but in practice, users struggled to see the "dividing line" between the left side dock/panel navigation & right side content. Instead, we've now opted for a wider, clearer single panel dock, with slide-outs for Inbox & Search.

That allowed us to implement a better org switcher at the top, clearer access to personal and organizational settings. And it just looks a lot nicer too.

Simplified Calls & Chats

Calls in Samepage have always been easy to use, but not always easy to setup. We thought call buttons everywhere you can chat would create a "location" for the chat would make a lot of sense. Turns out most people didn't get that, and just wanted to start a call. That's easy to do from the dock now. Very fast. So, ad-hoc calls work more like a phone call.

And for larger, planned calls we recently introduced auto-call to our Events, which has been a big hit. We're extending that to have a "Start Call" button in events. Sometimes you don't want to use auto-call, but when you have a larger event with more than several attendees, it's nice to be able to start the call manually.

Ever wanted to chat with someone directly, but not leave the page where you are working? Now just start a chat from the dock and a pop-up chat window will appear. Minimize it to the bottom of your screen, or start a call directly from the chat. Chatting has never been easier, and now you don't need to lose your context.

Favorites & To Review

Favorites now appear right in the dock. You can favorite Folders and Pages quickly and easily.

That enabled us to eliminate/consolidate To Review. How many of you actually used To Review? Some users did, but because it was yet another place to check, we heard it often that users would forget to review To Review! Now you just favorite a page, and when you are done, unfavorite. Simple!

Agenda: Tasks / Events

We've been doing a tremendous amount of work on our tasks and events, most notably introducing task boards recently. But we're not close to being done yet. Two of the most requested features: file attachments and direct chat on tasks/events everywhere necessitated some significant rewriting of the code, and gave us the opportunity to rethink the UI. These will be coming soon.

First, in the dock we have a new "My Agenda" item which consolidates Calendar & Tasks from the old dock. But it also makes it clear this is where you access your tasks/events.

Previously we mixed task reports and your personal tasks/events and this just confused everyone. In this new version we don't have a home yet for task reports, but that is coming soon. This is one area that is not ready yet for our existing users.

In the meantime, you can still use the filter icon to access and create sophisticated task/project reports.

We'll have more to say about task reports and project management tools soon.

On our Pages (and soon on Sheets & Mindmaps) you'll see a new Agenda section. Embedding tasks/events inside of pages has always been a neat thing about Samepage, but many users failed to understand this feature. And if your tasks or events had a lot of content, they made your pages look really messy.

Philosophically, the vision of the Samepage is to bring your content, conversations, and workflows (tasks/events) onto the same page. In the new UI, tasks and events remain very closely connected to the page, but in a separate panel right next to the page. It's much tidier, and we think advances the execution of our philosophy a long way.

Removing the tasks/events from the body of the page is also enabling and necessary for the next step, which will be adding file attachments! Coming soon!

Finally, we are introducing a Calendar page type. Instead of having just one Team calendar - which users struggled to understand - how you can set up a project, event or team specific calendars in any folder. Technically that also enables us to remove "Team events" (or what we called pageless events). Architecturally that was necessary to achieve comments on events everywhere. It's also nice that it makes Samepage even easier to use and understand.

One consequence of this is that you lose Team rollups of tasks & events. However, even here, the Teams architecture failed to meet user needs. Projects rarely stay within one team, but we didn't offer a way to visualize tasks across many teams. Our new tasks/event reports will do just that. Stay tuned, but Task/Event Reports are likely to become another page type. The power will be awesome!

Dozens of Small UI/UX improvement

You'll notice throughout the new interface dozens of small UI improvements. We're really getting down with learning how to make Samepage not just more functional, but more beautiful. New larger/cleaner fonts, easier to read messages, larger user avatars, super easy to use full-screen mode everywhere, and more. The list is too long to cover here, so enjoy discovering all the small improvements we've made.

Files

Files are the one area where we have had to temporarily remove functionality that exists in the current Samepage. Team Files have been removed, but we don't (yet) have something to replace it with. Why? Our file sync code is some of our oldest (and most fragile) code. We need to rewrite a lot of it, but before we do so, we're going to take a long look at what's the best way to support files going forward into the future, and not just try to recreate Dropbox.

Actually, we think there might be a much better way to do this that could also give us offline capability. But that's getting ahead of ourselves, we've still got some research to do, which we start working on as soon as we get through the release.

How to sign up for the new Samepage user experience?

If you click on your avatar at the bottom of the dock, you'll see My Account as the first menu item. On the My Account dialog, at the bottom is a link to "Create a new organization". If you click on that you'll be presented with a dialog where you can create a new Samepage organization in either the Current Teams environment or in the new environment.

Feel free to test the new environment. Feel free to enable the Trial to see all the new access rights and administrative features. Our desktop and mobile apps support both environments natively, so it is easy to switch back and forth from your production and testing organizations.

What will happen to Old Samepage?

In the short run, nothing at all, we will continue to support the current "Teams" Samepage for quite some time. When we are ready to offer a migration path we will do it in stages. First, we are offering you the ability to set up new organizations to preview and evaluate the new environment. Later we will offer a voluntary migration that allows you to decide when you want to switch. Only much later will we start requiring migration.

Underneath, Teams Samepage and New Samepage share a great deal of common data structures. There are some incompatibilities, but they should be manageable. Therefore we will most likely introduce a voluntary migration path by the end of the year, after we've addressed Files and a few other issues. Then, sometime next year we'll start the mandatory migration process slowly and carefully.

Lastly...

This is a work in progress. There are still a lot of finishing touches to complete, a number of missing features we know about, and probably a lot we don't know about. That's where you can help us.

We can't wait to hear everything you think - the good, bad and ugly! Please use the in-product Feedback mechanism to tell us what you think!

Warmest regards,

The Entire Samepage Team!