The image above shows the results of some UX work we recently completed for AscentCRM, a redesign of the navigation of their application. The goals of the project were to simplify the navigation and future proof it a bit. This should lower their support costs and make it easier for their users to to find things. While we were swinging hammers, we updated the visual design a bit.

The menu had grown organically over time. It ended up a bit sprawling. The AscentCRM team are all smart hard working folks. Like most businesses they have a lot going on. They are a small, focused team and they don’t have any dedicated UX people on staff. So after meeting with them and getting a sense of their business and where they are headed we decided to start with a redesign of their navigation.

Nothing fancy about the work we did, really just the blocking and tackling of UX work. We started with content inventory, a list of all the menu items they have now and those they knew the were going to add.

“The blocking and tackling of UX work”

Once we had this list, we explored various ways of grouping the items. We needed to reduce the number of top level menu itemsUX so that they would all fit on one line. Fewer menus also makes it easier to find what you are looking for, because there are fewer places to look. Some of the menus got longer, but most were pretty short to begin with. You want to avoid having dozens of items in a menu, as this makes it hard scan. Most of the menus before the redesign had 2 to 3 items. After the redesign we had one menu that could have up to 11 items and all the rest had between 4 and 8 items. The longer menus make use of horizontal dividers to break them into sections, and make them easier to scan.

We also renamed the menus and some of the menu items. For the menu names themselves we looked for short descriptive words in plain language. The temptations is to use marketing speak. For example, we renamed “Database Insight” to “Customer Data”. “Insight” is a marketing term and pretty empty, so from a users point of view the menu was pretty much just “database”. This is a CRM system, so what we are collecting is “Customer Data”. Not flashy, but describes what is behind door number 1.

We also changed the look of the menu, the header and the filter section below. Again, our main goal was to simplify and update. Lots of gradients in the old version. The new design is much simpler and flatter. Say what you will about “flat design” vs skeuomorphism but flat designs have less visual noise.