Simplify formatting and styling content for authors at digital publishers with a single, discoverable, convenient place to style their content.
Lead Designer (with 1 PM, 1 User Researcher, 4 Engineers)
October 2015 – Jan 2016
From our regular general usability studies, feedback collected by our Customer Support team, and our own use of Inkling for authoring, we found 5 big issues with formatting:
Providing a simple authoring experience for non-HTML users to make beautiful content is a key part of Inkling's value proposition, so solving these issues was a high priority.
When our R&D team decided to focus on improving the authoring experience in September 2015, our research team surfaced issues users had with formatting. I worked with our research team to compile existing research to see if the user needs matched up with switching to an inline formatting bar, as our design team had thrown around the idea for a while, inspired by the simplicity of Medium's authoring experience.
We found that we already had user feedback about difficulty finding the breadcrumb bar and users not finding buttons in the overflow section of the contextual menu bar. I made some quick sketches of how the formatting bar could work, suggested it could make all the options more visible while reducing the mouse travel distance. A possible downside was whether showing a formatting bar every time a user clicked into an element would distract from the authoring experience.
I believed it wouldn't, and got buy in to do research on this with engineering's help to build an interactive prototype, as it would be hard to convey the experience to users with an InVision prototype.
With the coded prototype, we ran user testing sessions and confirmed that users quickly found the formatting options, felt it was more logical having them right by the element they were formatting, and weren't distracted by the toolbar when editing if it disappeared when they started typing.
During user testing, we found some unexpected pain points that led me to make more design changes.
For example, users frequently asked about how to switch colours. The only way to do that at the time was to use the breadcrumb bar to apply CSS classes for colours, but this confused users for two reasons:
In response to this, I added single-select colour pickers for background colour and text colour to the inline formatting bar, and worked with our Creative Services team to make sure these changes were applied to the new templates users built their projects from.
We also found that our existing move handles confused users – half of them didn't realise they were move handles, and had been moving content by cutting and pasting. They also were confused by the element name shown on the selected element. We previously used the HTML tag name and classes, but discovered since most of the authors are non-technical, they often didn't know what the tag names or classes meant. I defined a set of non-technical labels for our new drag handles.
For the toolbar's visual design, I chose a dark theme for greater contrast with the (mostly) light content and used rounded edges to match Habitat's existing friendly UI. I also used icons for almost all of the buttons to make the bar scalable to accommodate custom buttons some of our users added, with labels for every button (and shortcut info where appropriate) in the dropdown to make sure the functions were all clear.
The feature was released to all users in our January 2016 update, and was the first significant update to our rich-text editor in 2 years. The feedback from the internal alpha and the previews with customers was overwhelmingly positive. I'll keep you up to date on feedback from our general release.
Because we wanted to get the improvements into users' hands as quickly as possible so they could benefit from easier editing and get feedback to us sooner, we decided to save some changes for V2, like separate dropdowns for picking colours, and exposing a way for technical users to add their own custom buttons to the toolbar.