Convergence 2013 has an excellent virtual counterpart that allows those of us not fortunate enough to be in New Orleans to watch recordings of pretty much all of the sessions. Although often the most important bits get a showing on the keynote sessions, the big news for Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers and consultants was actually hidden inside the concurrent sessions: details of the Orion release. I watched two sessions that show us what the future user interface of Dynamics CRM is going to look like:
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Product Recap & Roadmap Primer by Jujhar Singh
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Reimagining the User Experience by Michael McCormack
Here’s a few Orion screenshots and some notes on the changes in user interface logic.
The single window paradigm
Polaris managed to reduce the amount of popup dialogs in Dynamics CRM, but apart from some nice transient updates of the form (lead to opportunity, new case to existing case), it didn’t change the fundamental UI logic which dictated that each record form opened in a separate window. Well, Orion does exactly that: all records open in the single CRM window now.
Whether you are on the old main window, meaning looking at a list of records or a dashboard (possibly renamed as workspace?), or opening an individual record form, it all takes place in the same window. The navigation that was previously available only on the main window now follows you wherever you go in CRM. To quote Michael McCormack:
“The whole purpose of Orion is to get rid of that window problem we’ve had for so long.”
Note that he didn’t say Windows with a capital W and plural form… In relation to that, the commitment to cross-browser support was emphasized on several occasions, with McCormack saying he doesn’t currently use Dynamics CRM on Internet Explorer at all and neither does most of his team, just to keep everyone honest about never going back to that IE-only mentality.
The Navigation Bar
With just a single menu bar across all of the application, it’s got to be pretty versatile, right? That’s what the Navigation Bar appears to be. Here’s how to access the main navigation areas (Sales, Marketing, Service etc.) when on a record form:
Next stop, going one level down, meaning one step to the right in the new navigation structure, we can see the entities falling under the Sales area:
Even further down, if we click on the opportunity entity on the Navigation Bar, we’ll get the MRU list = most recently used records. A handy feature that used to be either hidden in the top right corner of the sitemap or alternatively buried in the Outlook backstage menus is now placed literally front and center. Pinned items should also be supported, although there doesn’t appear to be a visible pin in this early version of the Orion UI yet.
Working with records
There’s now a default dashboard for each navigation area, which makes quite a lot of sense compared to having them previously only available in the common Workplace (which might be eliminated in Orion by the looks of things). If you’re in a view of records instead, what you get is a nice, widescreen presentation of column information, as there is no longer any left side navigation hogging up space on the screen.
Clicking on a record from the list will not open a new window, you’ll just move onto a record form instead. Want to get back to the previous view? Just use the Back button/gesture of your preferred browser. Crazy, eh? CRM working just like a standard web application and respecting the navigation paradigms everyone’s already familiar with.
So, now that we’re on the record form, how is the Navigation Pane different? Well, it isn’t, which is the whole point. You can (presumably) access any menu of the application from any page of the application through this global top navigation.
This was one thing I really hated about Polaris: removing the Ribbon from the new forms effectively made it impossible to add related records for the parent record that you currently had open. Trying to add subgrids on the form to make up for the loss was no help either since the relationship inheritance feature was broken. To add insult to injury, you had a plus sign in the top left corner that allowed you to create a new, blank record of the same type you were currently viewing. When would anyone ever want to do something like that from a record form? (more…)