Creative & UX Direction, Project Management
Act! Premium is a nearly 3-decade old CRM software designed for small to medium-sized businesses, deployed by the customer either via Windows (Act! Premium), web (Act! Premium Cloud), and mobile, or hosted by Act! in a secure cloud environment. All versions integrate with many third-party applications including Microsoft Outlook, Word, and Excel, Google Contacts, Gmail and more in order to generate and track communications with the contacts maintained in ACT!.
Outside minor iconography and branding updates, both Act! Premium and Act! Premium Cloud had not seen a major UI refresh since the last major code re-write in 2005.
In Q2 of 2015, leadership believed updating Act! Premium Cloud’s UI would be one of the incentives for users to upgrade to the v18 release, December of the same year. Being cloud-based, this would be an easier first step than updating the Windows client.
The ask was a stark differentiation between v18 and previous releases, and Act! Premium Cloud to look more modern than the on-premise (Windows) version. The design team needed to update the product with minimal development effort with the biggest value—little UX changes, meaningful UI changes.
We started off with getting rid of the 3D look everywhere, specifically the navigation across the left and the top, while tightening up the UI overall to give it a more “flat” look. We were working with updated branding guidelines for color and brought in Premium’s new blue to the product.
While this was a web app, the product was not built in a responsive manner so we needed to consider the different resolutions and widths a user may have. In addition, Act! is available in English (US, UK, and Australia), French, and German so we needed to keep localization in mind with design. We were also working against a tight deadline in order to get the updates to development because of the nature of the product’s release cycle being a long lead time.
After some user interviews with our first pass and talking with development, we found we were able to push the UI even further to simplify the architecture more. Was it useful to have redundancies in actions such as “Call”, “Meeting”, “Back”, “Forward” and more both at what seemed a global level as well as on a sub-toolbar?
The UI felt too “light”. Having just completed a UI refresh on our other, lightweight CRM, Act! Essentials, we felt anchoring the main navigation on the left would give Premium some necessary weight. Doing this would also tie all products under the larger Act! portfolio together nicely.
We had decided to remove the iconography from the menu as we felt it was just clutter and didn’t add much value. When the main navigation menu was collapsed, the product showed a simple “act!” logo with the standard hamburger menu.
Act! Premium Cloud v18 was released on December 8th, 2015 and the updated interface was very well received from the community. Being such a fresh release, we will continue to listen to the community for feedback. There are plans to update the UI for Act! Premium Windows client in 2016 as well not only because the install base is still about 80% of the users, but companies may have different deployments within one office.