Goldmine iPad app

Filed under: apps, interaction design, user experience / product design, visual / UI design

 

FrontRange GoldMine

Milpitas-based company FrontRange is best known for GoldMine, their long-running CRM desktop application that is based off the Windows platform since the early 1990s. FrontRange felt that the app needed a refresh & looked to our team to convert it from the desktop to the iPad since most GoldMine users in the sales industry have already begun carrying iPads to their client meetings.

We were given carte blanche to dream up a next generation app that would be delightful to use, but also was familiar to both iPad users & those familiar with the current incarnation of GoldMine.

Client considerations

From early design meetings, they insisted on a few things that were more of personal preference. Specifically, they wanted to avoid skeumorphism, as they felt it was too tacky. Otherwise, the goals they wanted to accomplish is:

  • with the iPad in hand, it should be easy to hold, as sales teams will be using this as their primary tool
  • it shouldn’t alienate current GoldMine users who have grown into habits of using the desktop app
  • FrontRange wanted the app to have a fresh look, as their current apps are very dated.

When our goals are clearly summarized like this, it becomes easy when we brainstormed because these points became our decision-makers whenever we came across a design barricade.

The logistics

FrontRange had a development team which worked in sprints, so we made sure to align our sprint calendars accordingly, except that we designed a sprint ahead so that by the time development needed specs, we were ready to deliver.

The client had a very robust list of user stories, or real-life scenarios that salespeople face when using GoldMine. We used these stories as task lists, & our delivered designs would answer them.

Whiteboard sketch

The process always started with a brainstorming session, in which we explicitly wrote out the goals for that user story, then whiteboard sketched a few ideas. After we agreed on a direction, I went into Illustrator to create low-fidelity mockups as quick proofs, but then realized that I was fast enough in Photoshop that we skipped this middle step & rapidly whipped up a polished mockup. I previewed my work with an app called Skala Preview, an app that projects my Photoshop document onto a connected iOS device. In this case, it was an iPad:

iPad with GoldMine wireframe

This actually helped especially on a small screen like an iPad because we got to also quickly prototype a screen to see if elements are too small to tap.

Parts of the app

Thankfully, since FrontRange has been maintaining the app for years, they’ve collected enough research & insight that they are fully confident that they understand their user. We’ve had open communication with the GoldMine team to probe into their current users & their pain points. We’ve distilled the information down into three primary views that are most important to sales:

  1. contact details screen
  2. sales/opportunity tracking, a view where a salesperson can view the probability of closing a deal
  3. contacts, where the sales team can communicate with their clients & even amongst themselves

Two-paned layout

Since most salespeople primarily held their devices in the portrait orientation, this prompted us to design with a two-pane layout. This was ideal so that there wouldn’t be any long lines of text that would extent all the way from the left edge to the right, which isn’t ideal for eye tracking.

Designing for iPad

The FrontRange team emphasized the importance of making sure that it’s comfortable to hold, so we wanted to make tap areas ergonomically correct. Early sketch ideas were to create primary actions near the center left & right edges of the screen, the places where a user’s thumbs are resting when holding an iPad. Note the finger illustration in the top right of the whiteboard:

Sketch to show primary actions near thumbs

Since we were designing on the iOS platform, we get a lot of the gestures & transitions for free since they were built into the OS. We experimented with pinch gestures to open & close menus, & swiping rows to reveal context menus.

When it came time to create high-fidelity prototypes, we designed with Skala Preview along the way so I can make sure things are large enough for tapping.

Testing to see if elements are large enough to tap

Since it acts like the primary screen for my Photoshop artwork, it’s a good & quick way to see how the app would look when it’s live.

Conclusion

Though it was a really fun project in which we got to deeply explore the gesture possibilities of iOS & tried new visual design ideas, FrontRange ran out of resources, so the company readjusted their priorities. They placed the project on hiatus until they can reallocate more developers to build our ideas.

A huge benefit of this project was that we’ve absorbed a lot of different design processes & created a new hybrid process that we’ve streamlined in the many sprints undertaken. Easily one of our more successful projects, though a shame it wasn’t able to go live.