The UX of TargetProcess

At work, they promoted me to Director, UX and Product Management.  I feel pretty excited about the whole thing.  As part of taking on more product management responsibilities, I can also hire a product manager to report to me.  I haven’t managed anyone since 2002.  Very exciting!   It brings back all these thoughts about mentoring people and about teaching. (When one person teaches, two people learn).

We are also moving forward with REAL agile product/project management.  I reviewed a bunch of online tools like Version One and Rally. I settled on TargetProcess.
The reason I liked them was that I felt the UI was simpler.  Rally and Version One intimidated me.  There were so many buttons and features.  I thought that I needed to start with something simpler.  Over the last week, I have started using TargetProcess (TP) and have discovered many cool things and many lame things.

TargetProcess TPTrayThey have tool called TP.Tray (only works on windows is a little bit of a bummer).  The purpose is to make a system tray icon you could click on, take a screen grab and write a bug, without leaving the system.  It’s a great idea, but it has a few serious failings.  One is in the screen capture part, you can write text on the image.  The text tool is horrible.  It’s confusing to delete the text and moving the arrow is impossible.  Plus the font colors make it very hard to read.  More importantly is the bug writing part. You are supposed to log the bug against a User Story.  The problem is so simple.

The list is not in alphabetical order.  It also isn’t searchable.  I have ALOT of user stories.  Are they kidding me with this?  How hard would it be to render these in alphabetical order??  And not having an autocomplete is just lame.

In the application itself, I am running into alot of bugs.  Things just go wrong pretty often. The release planning tool has a serious flaw that is also easy to fix.  It works by having a long list of features on one side, and you drag them into releases on the right side.  The problem is that the list on the left scrolls way off the page.  So you have to scroll down and then drag way to the top.  A better solution would be to put the tasks in a DIV with overflow:auto and height: 100% of the viewport.  Then I could scroll independently of the releases on the right.  It would make it much easier to do.  The bugginess was driving me nuts though.  I kepting trying to show a release, and hide another and it refused to comply.

Overall, I am pretty happy.  It is relatively flexible and understandable.  It doesn’t overwhelm me and gives me really useful information.  But the UX is so shoddy in places, that I just shake my head.  For example: There are 3 levels of detail called Feature, User Story and Bug/Task.  You can see Features with an expand to see the user stories but not the tasks or bugs.  You can see user stories that expand to bugs, but they dont have the features.  Why don’t they have the whole tree in one view?  Another example is change password.  It took me 10 minutes to find it.  It’s under “People”.  Not settings or admin.  No, that would be too easy.

I think this application also suffers from JavaScript homegrown issues. If they were to switch to EXTJS, I think they would improve the experience significantly right away.  There is just so much that is ugly or sketchy.

I know I keep flip-flopping, but there is a reason I like it.  There are alot of good things about it.  It’s just the little details that keep making me unhappy.  I wonder if I could reach out to their UI designer and have a heuristic with him/her.  I think I could help them.  Anyway, it’s a cool tool, but I am still working on it.

6 Replies to “The UX of TargetProcess”

  1. You might want to look at the Firefox add-in Stylish, which is an easy way to add a personal (persistent) stylesheet for a given URL/site to at least correct some of the shortcomings.

    And congrats on the promotion, boss.

  2. Nice post! Posts like that help us to improve.

    1. Problem in user stories in Tp.Tray posted as a bug. Will be fixed in next release.
    2. Proposed solution about scrolling in Release Plan already added. Will appear in next release as well.
    3. We have request for tree view for all entities. Will be added in future
    4. I am not sure how to resolve password problem. On my opinion, its current location in People area is OK, but maybe we should duplicate it on UI in Settings for example. What do you think?
    5. As I see ExtJS will not resolve much problems. Indeed we have quite many inhouse javascript code and it should be better structured and unified, but ExtJS will not provide all things we want. As a result, we may be ending with several third-party JS frameworks and that is not what we want. BTW, we are using ASP.NET AJAX as well.

    Glad you like TargetProcess in general and I definitely agree that UI is not perfect.

  3. Thanks Michael, I appreciate the update. When is that next release? I actually left out a bunch of the errors I ran into.

    I haven’t heard many (any) good things about ASP.NET AJAX. Do you guys really like it? We have been using EXTJS for our app and it makes so many things very easy. Of course, I am also a huge fan of jQuery. Best library ever.

    The nice thing about EXT for us has been its extensibility. For example, we had a special interface widget that is not that different than your release planner or iteration planner. We have a tree that you drag on and it becomes a line/form in a list. We just extend one of EXTs objects. It worked out very nicely.

    What are the things you think it misses?

    Anyway, there are a ton of questions I have about TP, but I guess I need to get involved with the forums. Again, I appreciate your response here.

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