February 12, 2015

Better with Bulk : Check out Contactually's New Batch Action Controls


Improvements to bulk contact management

Over the last couple of months, you've seen us tackle a big ol' pile of technical debt. Contactually's speed, reliability, and other characteristics that often get lumped under "performance" have been top priorities for us for some time now. That meant slowing down new feature development, hiring a bunch of great engineers, and even blowing up a few important things that required us to start from scratch.

This stuff is really important, and in case we ever forget, our customers are definitely there to remind us (thanks, guys!). But now that we're starting to turn the corner on some of these issues, it's equally important that we continue to push forward towards making Contactually as useful and easy to use as possible. Sometimes, this will come in the form of a big new feature -- but often, you'll see it more in tweaks to how you interact with the people and information inside of the system.

Designing and building a better Contactually (and not just a prettier one) is something we've been thinking about for a while, and we recently launched some changes to the Contacts screen that are a good example of this. Let's take a look at them.

Make common changes faster

People who are new to Contactually are often drawn to places like the Dashboard, or the Buckets section. But it's actually the Contacts screen where many of power users spend a lot of their time. That's because the Contacts screen is pretty awesome; you can use the built-in Search functionality to instantly build temporary mini-groups of contacts, and then perform actions like tagging, bucketing, or ScaleMail on that group.

Unfortunately, as we allowed users to do more and more of these kinds of things from the Contacts screen, the process of doing any of them became more and more intimidating. At some point, you've just got too many little checkboxes in the way of everything, and the system becomes a cluttered mess.

Where to find the new Batch Actions Bar

Here's how the new system works. First, select one or more contacts by clicking the box next to their name. When you do that, you'll see a control bar pop up at the bottom of the window -- it looks like this.

[caption id="attachment_5903" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Here's where the bulk-contact editing magic happens now.[/caption]

The first thing you'll notice is that big, orange Scalemail button. Since this is how a lot of people access it, we decided it should be easy, and hard to miss. Next, you'll see Edit Buckets -- this allows you to assign the currently selected contacts to any of your existing buckets. Just type in the name of the bucket you're looking for, and select it. If it turns out that the bucket doesn't exist, no problem; you can just create it right there, without leaving the list.

Boom, instant bucket.

Finally, one very convenient new feature is the ability to edit Location and Company information about multiple contacts at once, or to assign a group of contacts to a tag or Pipeline deal. It works the same way as the Edit Buckets control, but allows you to update these other properties just as quickly. Why the change? I asked Contactually's User Interface Designer, Alex Strasman what he liked most about the new system.

"Breaking out the various groupings (Buckets, Companies, Location etc) into their own dedicated menus, gives the user an unprecedented amount of control that was not readily available until this point," he said.

"Greater functionality can lead to a whole host of complex options and parameters that are often difficult for the user to understand and navigate. This is why we felt it was so important that the new design be clean, simple and instantly usable."

Better tools for managing bigger networks

There are lots of big changes in store for Contactually over the next couple of months, but Alex and our Product team are working hard to keep those changes as simple and easy to process as possible.

"With all this added functionality, the main task in terms of visual design is to create an interface that displays information in it's simplest form," says Alex. "We've refrained from adding in unnecessary glitz and glamour, so the Batch Actions bar would be a slick, powerful tool that our users would love. It's set the tone for things to come across the entire application."

Better batch actions is just one of the many, frequently used parts of Contactually that we're looking forward to revisiting, refining, and retuning. So stay tuned, and we'll keep you posted on these kinds of improvements over the next few months.