The UX of Jira Client

By | April 22, 2011

Recently, we moved from one project/bug system to JIRA with GreenHopper.  The system is highly programmable with lots of plugins and so far, we have made good strides forward.  It’s not perfect by any means, but so far, so good.

One area I have not been thrilled is the GreenHopper interface.  Some people here love it, but I was having a harder time.  There was something about the interface that I just didn’t like.  Specifically, I think it was the way the menus and navigation worked.  It looks like this:

All of those arrows drop down a menu and you can combine them to navigate to whatever view you want.  I found this UI endlessly confusing.  One of the engineers here loves it, but I think it might be geared towards that engineering type of mind.  (Read: The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper).  I found myself not using the UI because of this problem.

Then I stumbled upon this desktop software called JIRA Client from ALMWorks.  The UI of this tool is a tree.

This was a 100 times more effective for me to find what I am looking for.  I can nest the filters and create my own structure.  The UI seems quite polished.  Although it certainly doesn’t do everything, it seems well worth the $100 to navigate the JIRA issues.  The only mistake they made was not using the tree as pure navigation.  They combine the tree with a tab system.

The big problem with this is that I now have 40 tabs open without realizing it.  There seems to be no benefit to having the tab open.  It just creates clutter.  I am using the tree for navigation, but because of the tab system, the tree nodes do not become LIT.  This is when a node is highlighted in some way to indicate that you are navigated currently to that item.  This faux pas doesn’t hinder my usage of the tree, so I just have to close 40 tabs every once in a while.

Another benefit is that the system is synchronized, so I don’t need to make a server call for each request.  It caches the results locally and syncs every couple of minutes.  This makes the system MUCH faster than using the browser UI.  Speed is truly the most important feature of any system.

On the downside, I find some things that could be improved.  One is the way it renders fonts.  There is no way to increase the font size.  Right now, the font is pretty small, so I have a hard time reading the details.  Secondly, the preview pane is only available on the bottom.  Based on my screen resolution (1920×1080), I would be much better off if the preview pane was on the right.  I’d be able to read much more without scrolling.

I just tried to login to their forums to post that as an idea, but unfortunately, the system says they are not allowing any new people on the forum.  (Not sure what that is about)

Jira Client is the kind of model that I think is pretty valuable.  There is a cloud service like GMail, Jira, DropBox, Google Docs, etc and there is a thick client on the desktop to edit the file.  I think Microsoft is trying to do this with SkyDrive and MS Office, but they have a long way to go.  For now, I am impressed with this one example.

4 thoughts on “The UX of Jira Client

  1. Kaj Kandler

    In my opinion, Jira has quite a bad user experience. Here are my sour grapes:
    * Horrrible search – Attempt to search free text and I can’t include a product/version, etc.
    * Even more horrible management of searches and filters (you have to change tabs to save a search and then still click two links/buttons to do it, share filters?
    * Account time outs. You need several screens to login again after your account session times out and then it depends on the screen you were in if you get back to it or not (Greenhopper does not return to its panel/filter). and the number of screens/buttons is different in different areas of the app.
    * Saved searches are rather slow (because they are queried every time I call on them). If I have half a dozen searches in back ground process could figure out if a change in an issue does warrent its inclusion in or exclusion from a search list (store the result not the query). Start with the searches of the user that actually made the change (so it is fast and consistent for this user). Or get better indexes that make the queries much faster.
    * Several functions are on seperate screent, such as managing the watchers of a ticket. When they should be pop ups at best or better even drop down windows.
    * Save button is always at the very end of the screen, which requires a lot of scrolling. I’d love to see the comment model being used more, where I say I want to do action x and get some sort of inline editing overlay with its own button to save the change.

    Enough for the day.

    Reply
    1. Glen Lipka Post author

      I agree with you Kaj on the web interface. Have you tried the JIRA Client I described? I am enjoying it so far.

      Reply
  2. Robert Schultz

    JIRA’s UI sucks big time.

    So I downloaded the JIRA client you’ve linked to and I like it so far. I found it a little confusing as to how to create the tree on the left. Creating the custom queries wasn’t tough, but figuring out exactly what a ‘distribution’ is took me some brain time. It should have automatically made some of the tree structure on the left imho.

    Reply

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