At the team leads offsite we held recently, we discussed a new strategy to gather feedback from customers about features faster. I had the perfect feature on my roadmap – Configurable View Issue.
In JIRA 4.1 we made some drastic changes to the view issue screen to provide a more streamlined and faster user experience when browsing issues. In JIRA 4.2 we took this concept further with dialogs, the operations dialog and some more tweaks on the view issue screen to make important information stand out further. In JIRA 4.3 we wanted to continue this story by allowing customers to customise their view issue screen. We weren’t quite sure however if customers would like a fully customisable view issue screen that would let them drag different sections into different spots.
The goal for this excercise was to get a working prototype up and collect customer feedback within 1 week. And the end of the week we’d have to reach a decision about if we are going to deliver this feature or not in 4.3.
Within 2 days we managed to build a working prototype:
There was a lot of hacks (including some static blocks of HTML) but in the end it was good enough to give customers an idea about how this feature would work. The prototype was embedded on a landing page on http://confluence.atlassian.com/ including an embedded Wufoo survey.
Within 1 week we had collected about 60 survey responses. Unfortunately there wasn’t huge customer buy in for this feature. While some users liked the ability to configure their view issue screen, many were worried about losing the standard look the view issue page has now. There were also a number of requests to tackle other issues on the view issue screen. In order to build this feature properly we’d have to add admin controls to turn the whole feature on or off and allow admins to provide layouts for projects, issue types & user groups. Unfortunately there was no way we could fit this amount of work into the JIRA 4.3 roadmap.
Despite the fact that we decided against implementing configurable view issue at least in JIRA 4.3, I’d highly encourage creating a quick prototype like this to gather customer feedback for questionable features. We received some really useful and constructive criticism as well as feature requests which will definitely come in useful when deciding what features to put on our roadmap in the near term. One tip: Limit the whole excercise to no longer than one week. A short timeframe definitely helps to only focus on what’s relevant for the feature and forces you to not waste any time building a ‘perfect’ prototype.
Aside from building this prototype, we also managed to bundle the UPM with JIRA and replace the existing and (very aged) plugins admin section. The UPM will make it much easier to install new plugins as well as upgrading your JIRA version by allowing users to check if all their plugins are compatible with the next version of JIRA.
Finally we also aim to improve the dashboard in JIRA 4.3 to make it faster as well as provide a publish & subscribe feature to make it easier to add all gadgets from another Atlassian application. We laid some ground work for this work in this iteration, by creating some in-browser performance tests for the dashboard to let us measure exactly how much we are increasing performance. We also started cleaning up the HTML & CSS for some gadgets in this iteration.