DISCLAIMER: This is a future feature and currently a work in progress. Your feedback will further shape this feature.
The system settings for our flagship product, MobileIron Core, are growing fast, and discoverability is becoming a problem.
THE EXISTING SOLUTION
The current design for managing system settings uses proper categorization of all system-level features. As you can see in the screenshot below, navigation is enabled via a menu at left, with the top items collapsible. But the menu is long and will continue to grow as new functionality is added to the product. Some of the issues that arise with this approach:
- Adding more items to the list does not scale well -- whether adding more categories or more items to existing categories, administrators could become confused about where the functionality they are seeking currently resides.
- Some of the functionality can be part of multiple categories, which adds further confusion for the administrators.
- First-time and novice users will always want to see all of the features as they familiarize themselves with the system's capabilities.
LISTEN TO THE ADMINISTRATORS
A frequent comment we heard from administrators was “We didn't know that feature was there.” So we understood that there were two main requirements for administrators: easy access to all the features, and ease in finding those features.
DRAFT SOLUTION: HIGHLIGHT SEARCH
The first option we came up with was a search that highlights the search term in the page. However, this was tricky to implement in the current UI framework because of the heavy use of components. In addition, there were other problems that would arise with this approach:
- It would require an intermediate search results page, which added a step in the interaction.
- It would require us to index all the text from the UI before showing the result.
- Highlighting the element in the page could be confusing if the page extends far below "the fold".
- If the search term is not in any of the pages, there would be no result.
SOLUTION: SYSTEM SEARCH
The second option, inspired by Apple's OS X Spotlight Search, would enable administrators to start typing any word want and auto-suggest will show possible titles. Selecting a title would take the user to the page. In the example below, you can see the “access” keyword returns “Allow apps to use Accessibility”, but the result term is not part of any user interface. This is just one of the auto-suggest results, only available in the drop-down menu.
The advantage of this approach was the ability to use the synonyms and concept phrases for which a user may search, but which may or may not appear on the page. This led us to construct a list of all possible search terms for a particular page. Below is an example for the Enterprise settings page.
We added a search box in the top left corner above the list, and the moment user types a single letter, we show him suggestions from the real pages. The pages can be anywhere among the categories, but as soon as the user selects the suggestion he is redirected to the page. This reduced the user interaction from opening the categories and going to the page to typing one or two letters and pressing “Enter.” There are several benefits to this approach:
- It scales well: in two letters an administrator can filter up to 676 different options.
- It is keyboard accessible.
- It doesn't need the administrator to know where the feature is.
- It doesn't require the administrator to know even the proper name of the feature--even a synonym should work.
Here is the solution in action:
Note that the System Settings search is a potential future feature. It allows you to:
- Search for a specific feature by entering the title of the page or the feature name
- Type and the suggestions appear in the drop down
- Select the suggestion which closely resembles your search item
OTHER SEARCH OPTIONS
To search for a feature specific to a device, the user could type the device name “android”, and all the result pages that are relevant to Android will appear in the drop down.
If the user is looking for a feature specific to a keyword--for example, MDM--typing “mdm” will show the user all of the suggested pages.
All page elements are indexed so the user can also search by the field names and page titles.
System Settings search supports synonym search, for when the user is not sure of the exact proper name but knows the most common terms.
The search term can be part of any word in the whole sentence. For example, searching for “and” will give all results starting with “and” (e.g., Android), and will also show results where "and" is part of the word (e.g., "mandatory").
DEMO IN ACTION
To try the System Settings search feature, a login is required. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to try the prototype.
Working prototype: https://eapp051.auto.mobileiron.com