Redesigning ActiveCollab

What to do if your app has too many functions
ActiveCollab was redesigning my company a year ago. I was able to work in an environment that allowed for mutual trust, no hierarchy, and was open to all suggestions. ActiveCollab’s market position was solidified by the sale of version 4. It’s hard to create a solid product that solves problems, given the fact that there are only a few first-class software solutions. ActiveCollab’s success was something I saw with great admiration. ActiveCollab’s user experience (UX), was a major concern. A51, the company behind ActiveCollab, was primarily a programming company. The design was an afterthought and was hindering technical implementation. This mindset led to the current state of the application after eight years of work. It needed a fundamental UX redesign.
The first week was spent trying to get a feel for the software and finding key user flows that were causing pain. These are also known as friction points, which are sources of frustration when performing certain tasks. There were many of them. There were many of them. We would sometimes get together to make pancakes, but it was only twice at her house. You had to dig through the paper and recipe notebooks to find a plate when it was time for dinner at her house. The same cupboard also held jam, a drill and a blowdryer. This was a well-organized system that she could navigate without any problems. But for any guest, this was terribly frustrating.ActiveCollab 4 was a house where nothing had been thrown away for eight years. It was robust, feature-rich software that people loved. But only after they mastered how to use it. It was difficult to compete with 20+ similar products. This is due to the fact that most people give up on it after a few minutes. It’s easier to add features to create the illusion that the software is powerful than it is to invest in the product and understand the needs of real users. ActiveCollab became a tool that was used intensively by one set of users, while the rest emitted noise. We were hoping for a significant reduction in this — but not in a manner where you would cut off a patient’s foot to treat a sore toe. We needed to find a balance, rethink our approach to solving problems and come up with a new way to do it. We needed to get rid of everything in our house that was not needed, organize it, find the right place for it, and then buy new stuff.
It was soon apparent to me how complicated ActiveCollab was. The greatest hurdle would be 8 years worth of legacy and the existing users who deserved respect. We are able to overcome this obstacle.