24 March 2011

Planbox new User Interface

Today we're releasing a new UI for Planbox. It has been simplified and is much faster. We managed to combined the Plan, Dashboard and Work pages all in one called the New Work page. Yet the interface is more minimalistic than before. Have a look: First off, you work on one initiative at a time. That can be chosen from the top-left drop-down in the header. The Search/Create box serves the dual purpose of instant search across all items in the initiative and adding an item. As you type in to add a new item, Planbox will show you ones which are similar. That way you can decide to jump to an existing item and avoid entering duplicates, or create a new one. On the left are items grouped by iteration (blue tabs). The My Work tab shows you items from the Current iteration for which you still have work to do. On the right is the Dashboard. It always has an up-to-date view of the chosen iteration. Click on one of the tiles to zoom in and see more details. For instance, here’s a view of the team, its workload and progress: Click on an item to work on it. A panel slides open allowing you to enter tasks, set details and attach files.

New features

We've added new features many of you have asked for. Here’s a short list:
  • Points: Set a point value to an item.
  • Business Value: Set a $ value to an item.
  • Deadlines: Set an end-date on an item.
  • Instant Search: Search across all items in an initiative.
  • Time estimate per task: Time estimates are now per task - no longer by role.
  • Reorder tasks: You can drag and drop tasks to prioritize them inside an item.
  • Real-time updates: Planbox polls the server every few seconds to refresh what you see. So your screen and that of your colleagues are always in sync!

Soon to come

Not everything was ported. You’ll notice messages aren’t yet present in the new UI. We’re working on making messaging more instant and collaborative. Labels are also not yet there. Look out for those in upcoming releases.

Managing Users

The Manage page was changed as well. It is now simpler to use. Click on the Manage icon in the header next to the initiative name to get there. Here's what it looks like: To go back to the new Work page, click on the running icon in the header next to the initiative name.

Give it a try

If you're an existing user we have flipped the switch for you. New users can click on the link Switch to new Planbox located top-right on your page. That will bring you there. You can always switch back by clicking on your name in the header and select Switch back to old Planbox from the drop menu. Both interfaces use the same database and engine. So your projects can easily coexist in both.

Under the hood

On the backend nothing has changed: the same engine and database are used. The front-end however is totally new. We have implemented an MVC (model-view-controller) framework. In addition, widgets were written totally from scratch for optimal performance. The MVC framework is built upon Backbone JS. Backbone JS is an open-source Javascript MVC micro-framework built by Jeremy Ashkenas. It was originally released October 2010 and has gained rapid wide adoption. Many thanks to Jeremy for his help and great framework! We’ve extended Backbone to suit our needs and hope to push some of those back to the open source community soon. We still use John Resig’s jQuery extensively. But we have dropped usage of jQuery UI and have written our own widgets from scratch. jQuery UI offers a rich set of widgets but was too bloated and became difficult to customize and manage.

Wrap up

We are currently working on training videos. However we worked hard to make everything self-explanatory. So if you find things aren’t clear, please send us feedback. Our goal is to make Planbox the fastest and most collaborative tool of its sort. This new UI is just the beginning. Stay tuned!
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