The CoachAccountable Blog

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A More Modern Design

I wish I’d done this a long time ago.

With the release of Version 4 about 14 months ago I gave the aesthetics of CoachAccountable a spiffy refresh.  It looked pretty good to me and others, and I think it was no doubt a bright, fresh improvement on the look and feel of gray-heavy Version 3.

AND YET, even shortly after that release, we heard feedback to the tune of “Hey, the UI looks a bit dated… any plans to…”

Not often.  I don’t think that was expressed to us even so frequently as once a month.  Yet undeniably the sentiment was out there.

But I resisted it.  We’d just done a remix of the UI, and were well on our way updating screenshots and reshooting videos to match.  How daunting and disappointing, I thought, to restart that process once again.  It was a minority, fickle opinion, I told myself.  When we asked folks to clarify, or name specific elements, or point to examples of what they thought would be a better style guide, we invariably got back little to nothing by which to go on.

So I let the V4 design be while continuing work on myriad other fronts of bettering CA.

And then it was about a month ago that I read this article, titled Stay Calm and Learn This.  It’s a bit of a meandering essay on the qualities that software should engender in order to make the inevitable process of having to learn it more palatable to new users, and in it there were two assertions that really opened up my eyes to the opportunity of hitting the design drawing board once again.  The first was:

If a product is attractive to a particular audience, it further increases identification and willingness to learn.

Certainly anything that increases the willingness to learn on the part of new users is a huge boon. CoachAccountable does SO. DARN. MUCH.  Folks very much enjoy the power it offers, but only if they can be bothered to get over any initial overwhelm.  We do our best to provide resources and one-on-one time to help with this, and we do a pretty good job!  But getting a leg up on this front by merely having a prettier CA?  That’s like an amazing free lunch that keeps on giving.

The second assertion that hit me was:

Software is not free of fashion and group dynamics. We also want what others like, and gladly accept learning effort and setbacks.

Sigh.  As much distaste as I have to being a slave to fashion, this statement is certainly true.  That fashion applies to software is for me as much a revelation as it is a sheepish “well duh, yes of course” moment.

So, very well then: fashion it is.  The great news about fashion is that one hardly need to be a fashion taste maker in order to show up fashionable: you just need to be cognizant of what’s fashionable and suitably fall in line.

Right around this time, we’d gotten this note from a coach who’d just signed up:

Dear CoachAccountable, I am considering using your Team Edition product for our coaching platform.  I believe it has many of the features we are looking for at a competitive price point but the icons and design seem quite dated.  Do you have plans to refresh the design?  If so, when?

This was the same non-specific, not-terribly-actionable report, but nevertheless seeing it expressed so plainly once again is what tipped it for me: I finally decided the time was right to take the prospect of a redesign seriously, now freshly armed with pivotal perspective that made clear both the why AND how1.


There’s an old saw that goes “If you copy from one book, that’s plagiarism; if you copy from many books, that’s research.”

In that spirit, I say without the slightest shame that to remix the aesthetics of CoachAccountable and bring it up to more modern tastes, I did a lot of research. :)

And goodness, was it fun!  I perused mood boards and a wealth of pithy app screenshots, and came to be bewildering conclusion Good god it’s practically all cut from the same cloth… why was I trying so hard to differentiate in any way on aesthetics?  With every little style rule I updated, with every little piece of UI I revised, in some cases to pixel-perfect renditions of other popular (i.e. familiar and comfortable) instances, CA sure enough transformed into something that JUST LOOKS RIGHT, in step with the style of the times.

Here’s a screenshot that shows a lot going on in the old style:

I mean, it’s not bad, right?

And here it is in the new:

Oh, okay… yeah–that’s way better.

The lion’s share of the work took about 7 full working days, and it was satisfying work wherein the time flew by.  And that brings me back to my wish of having done this a long time ago.  I began this project thinking the current Version 4 aesthetic looked overall just fine and I sincerely didn’t know what those occasional outspoken critics were talking about.

NOW I get it.  As I worked, toggling back and forth between the current and new versions, my eyes quickly adjusted to the new.  By that adjustment, the old indeed now appears to me as… well let’s just say far less than it could be.

Seeing quite clearly now thanks to the comparison point that the new affords me, I humbly apologize to all of the coaches and to all of their clients that I wasn’t quicker on the uptake on this front.  I truly hope this new design will be a very welcome sight for all, and for a good long time.

Dark Mode

I’m told it’s very popular.  And I can see why!  To take this all one step further I did a little extra work and cooked up a dark mode of CoachAccountable’s very own:

Ooh, pretty! I can see what all the fuss is about.

You can quickly toggle in and out of dark mode by typing Shift-D whenever your cursor is NOT in some input.  This is hard to do on a mobile device, so you can also set your preference under My Account >> User Profile:

Setting this here makes it your default across all devices, and the Shift-D trick overrides it on a given device.

 

The new look in feel is now in place for all accounts, including for your clients.  It’s a sweeping change but everything is still in its usual place, so you should feel right at home.

Small aside: for just a little while you yourself can appreciate the same refreshing contrast by toggling between the version back and forth between the old and the new.  Just type Shift-4 when not focused on an input.  If you’re like me, you’ll find it neat to see what got changed by recalling how it used to look.  It’s a fun way to mark being along on the journey of CoachAccountable’s evolution, and I’m glad to have you here for it.

I hope you and your clients enjoy the new look.  Here’s to a better CA for all!

Note:

  1. Speaking of the time being right, it was also that week that Morgan did a demo for a group that was then considering platforms as an alternative to running their coaching operations on an Excel spreadsheet, and apparently on that demo a member of THAT group was rather vocal about berating CA’s design.  Well now, I’d say with that the gauntlet had been thrown down.  Who would I be to trip over the low bar set by the aesthetics of your typical Excel spreadsheet!?


14 Comments »

  1. Sarah

    I am SO excited about this new update. It looks beaaaautiful! I market my coaching as a luxury brand and now even CA fits with that. It makes CA the absolute best on the market, hands down, no questions. I already recommend it to everyone but now I’m in love! BIG FAN right here!

    October 12, 2021 @ 9:26 pm

  2. Saba

    Thank you John!

    What a wonderful update :-) CoachAccountable is already absolutely fantastic. In fact, it’s the best coaching platform ever with so many features. It deserves a beautiful design that is pleasing to the eye. You’ve made the right choice to revamp the look and feel.

    I think design is important, it discreetly conveys a message, kind of like non-verbal communication. I’m thrilled with the new look and I’m sure my clients will be too!

    Kindest regards,
    Saba

    October 13, 2021 @ 4:18 am

  3. Louise

    Well you’ve knocked it out of the park again. It looks fantastic John.

    I have to confess, I was a silent one who quietly wished for a sleeker look. V4 was already a huge step forward, but I felt it could be even better. I didn’t say anything because it hadn’t long had a revamp, what CA does is more important and I believe it’s the best in the class, and mostly because I didn’t know how to articulate how to improve it. I didn’t feel I could contribute anything positive to the contribution.

    Yet again, I am reminded that my decision to trust you and the whole team with something that is so important to my business and the businesses of my clients continues to be a good one.

    Thank you for all that you do, you guys are AWESOME.

    October 13, 2021 @ 4:27 am

  4. Greg

    John, Morgan, Jaclyn,

    I’ll never be accused of being a fashion guru, but I know good looking when I see it. And this new UI is stellar. Thank you.

    I didn’t know my “wardrobe” needed updating but apparently it did. You’re always improving and what I like best is that it’s always been seamless. It looked “fine” in the morning. I went to the dentist and came back to the office to STUNNING.

    Nicely done. Thank you.

    October 13, 2021 @ 8:54 am

  5. Alzay Calhoun

    The beautiful updates plus this well-written, honest blog post has inspired some honesty from me as well.

    1) I too considered CA’s older design to feel a bit dated. I didn’t say anything because of point #2

    2) I can empathize with the effort of re-doing what you’ve already done. I don’t make software but I do make a LOT of content and workflows for my clients. There is certainly some discomfort (whining) that comes with making updates…especially when things work in their current version. It is work you have to choose to do. Which leads me to point #3

    3) Admittedly, I was browsing for a possible replacement of CA just the other day. Then, I had an internal conversation, “Yes this site is prettier, but is the team as committed? The people at CA really DO this. They focus on making their tool work…not just perform as a pretty front-end.” I closed the browser and continued on with my day.

    I would imagine, many of us coaches consider ourselves to be technical experts. We would prefer for that to stand on its own merit. However, the truth is “we eat with our eyes first” and it is to our benefit (and our clients) to make our strategies easy to consume.

    Cheers to the CA team for the spirit of continuous improvement. We see you.

    October 13, 2021 @ 9:40 am

  6. Britt Jackson

    Absolutely love the updates, and this post!
    CA allows us to serve our clients so well, and look good while doing so! :)
    You and your team are killing it!

    October 13, 2021 @ 11:07 am

  7. John

    Wow, thank you all so much! I am delighted to know that the redesign is so well received, and I thank you again for the patience and trust you have all given us to deliver.

    Alzay, your missive in particular is perhaps the most nourishing I’ve received all year. You’re absolutely right that “we eat with our eyes first”, and that epiphany as well could have launched this effort. Thank you for getting all of it, and for seeing us. I’m happy and proud to report to you my usual refrain, that there’s still plenty more up our sleeves yet to deliver.

    October 13, 2021 @ 11:47 am

  8. Tim Smith

    Well done John, as always – the continued improvement is a process not a destination – and you make the process look great!!!

    Thanks for all you do and don’t take your foot off the accelerator!!

    Be safe!!
    -Coach Tim

    October 13, 2021 @ 2:43 pm

  9. twila

    Hey John — the new interface is outstanding.
    Know that your efforts are much appreciated!
    Just one thing – I actually got reamed out about 4 weeks ago by a husband of a client because the late items are so “brightly” red. (She is No longer a client) Unfortunately our clients often are in need of increased self esteem and confidence. Could there be a way to show items in the dashboard just as colored words instead of “red” all around it… or possibly a different color for “late”.
    Thanks for all you do and for your consideration of this.
    Warmest…
    Twila

    October 13, 2021 @ 5:15 pm

  10. Deauke

    Spiffy indeed! Well done, great work! Anyone else can’t stop toggling?? ;) And Dark Mode, that is super cool! YOU are cool, John, in your John kinda way. :) Also loved the blog post as I relate so much to what entrepreneurs go through and how we are all very alike, very human, very perfectly imperfect. Now you triggered that I should finally start that redesign of my website, that I’ve been procrastinating for the same reasons.
    P.S. Let’s stop saying SORRY (unless we hurt someone) and start saying Thank you for your patience!
    Love,
    Deauke

    October 14, 2021 @ 1:55 am

  11. John

    Right on, @Deauke! Saying “thank you” instead of “sorry” is something my wife and I took on a few years ago and it’s a fab policy, especially when you’re working as a team raising small children (I assume this applies for big ones as well, will let you know in a few years!). I’m delighted if this account has in anyway inspired your own creative efforts, and thank you for your kind words.

    @Twila, yikes, so sorry to hear that! I still maintain that a sea of red being an uncomfortable thing to look at is very much intended (for the behavioral nudge that that discomfort so often provides), BUT your mention of all this reminds that, indeed, I forgot to remix those status markers in the Overview area! This oversight is now corrected, and if you reload the page you’ll see now that here too I’ve woven in the more subtle colored dot as found elsewhere. I hope that change better suits the sensibilities of your clients, and thanks for putting that on my radar!

    October 14, 2021 @ 10:13 am

  12. Twila

    John – you are amazing. The change you made to late items is fantastic!
    Everything is looking so great!
    Warmest,
    Twila

    October 14, 2021 @ 11:38 am

  13. Karen Hilton

    John,

    I echo the sentiments of so many…

    Yes, the interface felt outdated and I struggled with the pain of considering other platforms.

    The primary drivers for me to stay? Service. Responsiveness. Genuine care.

    I also enjoy the brilliance of the CA community. Cheers to you all!

    October 14, 2021 @ 11:56 am

  14. John

    Thanks Twila! I do what I can, and I can’t tell you how much joy I get from being able to run with a good idea and put it into production swiftly. :)

    @Karen, I hear you. Thanks for your patience, and we’re delighted to deliver on all 3 of those fronts.

    October 14, 2021 @ 4:29 pm

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