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Simpler Navigation in AppSignal: A Story About Refactoring Design

Wes Oudshoorn

Wes Oudshoorn on

Simpler Navigation in AppSignal: A Story About Refactoring Design

AppSignal users will immediately notice that we've updated our product navigation. The new navigation is simpler, cleaner, and improves usability for (power) users. Let's dive into these changes, along with some background on our philosophy of designing for developers.

Who Says Redesigns Are Boring?

It may seem that redesigns aren't a very exciting subject to blog about. There are a bunch of internal reasons for redesigns, and product features don't change. But following one of our last redesigns, a customer sent us this:

Hey, just wanted to let you know that the latest UI change is awesome! Makes so much more sense to have the list/graphs switcher as a submenu. The app also feels much faster.

This made us realize that redesigns actually impact the daily lives of our customers. So buckle in: we'll share the what, how and why of this redesign.

Designing for Developers Is Hard

We'll let you in on a little secret: developers aren't always the easiest people to design products for. Developers have an expectation that things work out of the box, while also being powerful and customizable. This is a challenge, but not one we back away from. We want AppSignal to be easy to use and very powerful at the same time. We accomplish this through design refactoring projects.

How We Refactored AppSignal's Navigation Structure Design

Refactoring the design of our application has been a part of AppSignal since our inception. We built AppSignal because other existing tools were unusable and had bad user interfaces with unnecessary complexity. This is why we always focused on design and user experience. Many developers have reported that their daily tasks got easier after switching to AppSignal, and we want to keep it this way. This is why we regularly simplify our design.

We've added new features to AppSignal's navigation structure over the past years (such as slow events, uptime monitoring and custom dashboards). At some point, this added too much complexity - the navigation got longer and did not feel simple anymore. It was time to go back to the drawing board. Time to refactor our design.

Launching Today: Simpler Feature Navigation

Today, we're launching simpler feature navigation. We've decreased navigation length and instead have six easy-to-understand main features, with more detailed features in expanding menus.

New AppSignal side navigation

Users have control over which menu items are open and closed. The navigation stays open when its opened, making switching back and forth between pages easy. The menu items don't jump under your cursor, which is nice when you're debugging a bug with AppSignal.

Navigation On the Organization Level

For years, all of AppSignal's features lived on the application level. Recently we introduced our first feature on the organization level: public uptime pages. With this feature, you can create one or more public status pages and include uptime checks from a few different applications.

New AppSignal applications page

In 2022, we plan to add more features to the organization level (like organization-level dashboards and distributed tracing features). Our new navigation on the organization level already makes room for these new features.

Switch Between Organizations and Sites

AppSignal has customers in all shapes and sizes: from solo developers with a single app to large teams and consultancies with many organizations, apps, and environments. Our updated application switcher allows you to quickly switch between any site, in any organization, from any point in the application.

New AppSignal app switcher

We've also introduced a new opening screen for users who have more than one organization. You'll land on this page directly after login and can choose which organization's errors and performance to inspect:

New AppSignal organizations overview page

Find User, Site and Organization Settings

The settings on the user, site, and organization level are now easier to find. You can see the relevant settings navigation on the bottom left corner of your screen. Your organization settings are now scoped to your current organization. This avoids confusion and makes sure you don't accidentally change settings for the wrong organization.

We've Done User Testing, But Please Give Us Your Feedback

We tested our new navigation to see if everything was clear and have already made some small usability adjustments. Please send us any feedback you might have. Even the smallest pain point gets annoying if you regularly use AppSignal, and we want AppSignal to be the smoothest monitoring tool on the market.

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Wes Oudshoorn

Wes Oudshoorn

Once a rogue designer, now co-founder and manager of colors at AppSignal. If our app looks great, it's to his credit. If something is wrong, he points at developers. Loves skiing.

All articles by Wes Oudshoorn

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AppSignal provides insights for Ruby, Rails, Elixir, Phoenix, Node.js, Express and many other frameworks and libraries. We are located in beautiful Amsterdam. We love stroopwafels. If you do too, let us know. We might send you some!

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