On the morning of my third day at the campaign I was walking to my desk when someone stood up and introduced himself. His name was David Osborne, and he was the Product Manager on something kind of secretive which at the time was being called WIRE. Someone had told David that I was the new digital designer who could handle the project, and I was happy to play along. What would follow was a year and a half of daily check-ins, puddles of blood sweat and tears, and three complete css re-writes of production code that was shipped to thousands.
The goal of the project was to organize the campaign's massive ground network of neighborhood teams into a centralized digital hub. They needed to be able to do everything they could do in person, but quicker and easier, and it needed to work for grandma just as well as a tech savvy college student.
Here is an initial mood board I did:
After a lot of wireframing, whiteboarding and general back and forth we finally arrived at an MVP which we rolled out to Iowa volunteers as a beta. It was based on a National > Regional > Local navigation model and looked something like this:
And boy oh boy, did they hate it. We frantically tried to identify and address the most important issues through a small but tireless support team that had tickets pouring in left and right. Volunteers were threatening to dump the product and go back to excel spreadsheets, and stakeholders within the campaign were getting restless.
So we did the only rational thing and scrapped the entire codebase and started over. We flew in volunteers and team leaders who needed to use Dashboard and did videotaped sessions right at HQ. We decided to take an entirely different approach to the navigational structure, arranging the different tasks and displays into a grid of tiles, many of which would display live data akin to a traditional dashboard. Once clicked, the tiles expanded into deep dive views of the various sections, all tailored to the user's position within the network.
An intro page on barackobama.com was launched to draw interested volunteers into the onboarding experience.
One big feature that had to get done as soon as possible was the Call Tool. We knew that if we could make the experience of cold calling a stranger a little more comfortable, we could move the needle for the President in a big way.
I wish I'd saved screen grabs of the previous version, but picture a usability nightmare that was difficult to read and cluttered with confusing options. The redesign felt like a product in itself, but actually lived as a feature within Dashboard, so the visual language had to match.
We launched the tool in April 2012 and immediately saw far more interaction, much longer time spent using the tool from each visitor, and remarkable decrease in the bounce rate. By election day, the Call Tool would facilitate millions of phone calls for the reelection effort. This graphic shows the immediate effect we saw in April from the redesign.
Most of the work volunteers were doing on Dashboard involved reporting and recording data so that regional managers could easily see which teams or team members were performing well and which needed shoring up. The challenge in designing the interface was that the information shown varied widely in complexity based on the "rank" of the volunteer. Below is a goal setting interface for a manager of an entire region. The controllable graph points allowed them to distribute segments of an overall goal week-by-week in order to arrive at a predetermined total.
At the same time, neighborhood-level volunteers needed a way to report their daily activity up the chain, including general commenting fields to describe what was working for them and what wasn't. A different tile housed an activity feed for communicating directly with other members of your neighborhood team.
All told, working on Dashboard is probably the most fun I've had working on any one project. There were many hard times and a lot of pressure, but in the end we had over 300,000 unique accounts doing work daily to help the reelection effort, and I believe it made a difference on election day.