Have you heard? Accelo v4 is coming!
I sat down with CEO Geoff McQueen to discuss Accelo’s evolving approach to platform design and usability. Here, he shares some details about the exciting new version release planned for later in 2023.
We started by chatting about how the platform got to be what it is today.
Geoff: My first business was a digital agency and IT services company. After reaching around a million in revenue with accounting software, spreadsheets and task lists, I realized I needed a system to run the business. Otherwise, I would’ve been one lost deal or one over-budget project away from hitting a wall.
I tried a bunch of different tools, and I had a choice: I could use old, expensive technology built for my type of business, or I could use half a dozen more modern and affordable options that each did one or two jobs but which left me with a jumbled mess of tools that made it just as hard to confidently deliver profitable client work. That felt like a bad tradeoff, and when I asked other business owners to see what they had done, they all told me they faced the same bad choices: tailored and clunky or a cocktail of tools that still left them trying to make sense of things.
Because of this experience, my co-founders and I built Accelo to give people running small and medium-sized service businesses a holistic view. The intention behind our current design was to give users the ability to focus on the work they need to do while also seeing how it fits together for the clients they serve. So, everything in Accelo today goes back to the client record. It connects all the different pieces so you can easily go from quote to cash.
The challenge of achieving this was establishing the necessary power without overwhelming the person who just wants to get in and see their list of tasks. Every type of user, or persona, will use a work management platform differently. We’ve had to think about blending the super impressive capabilities of Accelo with where each user needs to be.
The current version of the platform was built when we were a smaller team with fewer clients, and at that time, we didn’t have the luxury of creating a product that would be as adaptable as we needed it to be going forward.
Next, we discussed the pivots necessary for Accelo’s Engineering team to approach this huge undertaking.
Geoff: While we know we need to make the product easier to use, we have also heard from our clients that they want even more, not less, power. So, the challenge is to simplify the interface for casual users and make the platform less intimidating by tucking away some of the power only certain types of users need.
Now, while we could have done this only at a cosmetic level, we also decided to take this opportunity to completely change the way the product works from a technology perspective, using new technology that didn't exist even a few years ago to ensure we give our clients a much faster experience — and that we can move a lot faster as an engineering team into the future.
➡️ To learn more about the new technology underpinning Accelo v4, check out our behind-the-scenes webinar from earlier this year.
Over the past five years or so, new reuse patterns, techniques and technologies have arisen that allow developers to deliver data more quickly and in new ways. Two of those, one called GraphQL and the other called NextJS, are what we’ll be using for this whole new version of Accelo — they're all about being faster, easier and more extensible.
In terms of how screens render — the “design systems” that interact with data — we’ve moved from a sculpture approach to a Lego approach. If you can imagine trying to rebuild or edit a sculpture, it’s a much harder job than changing out a few pieces of a Lego-based structure.
➡️ To learn more about the design system powering Accelo v4, watch our second behind-the-scenes webinar.
What we’re obsessed with now is applying technology that makes Accelo faster for us to build, easier for new developers to learn and more efficient for our users to use. This is about freeing us up in every way and Accelorating your experience on a click-by-click basis.
I asked Geoff about the impact Accelo v4 will have on current and future users.
Geoff: Improved page load speeds will make it easier to know what you have to do next and faster when you do it.
One example is the way we've designed the top of our new view screens. We have introduced the concept of an info bar and an expandable hub on each of these screens to reduce information overload without sacrificing power. The info bar will show you just the most important information, and if you expand the hub, you can get a lot more powerful information. But if you don't want/need it, then it doesn't overwhelm you.
Another thing I think our users are going to love — I know I am looking forward to it as a user! — is a new approach to creating activities, creating tasks and viewing those tasks. The product today uses a "modal," or mini window feature, which loads in the middle of the page. Frankly, we have too much going on in these modals. So, we've gone back to the drawing board and created a new pattern called a drawer, which slides in from the righthand side of the screen, and redesigned the interface to be a lot less overwhelming.
➡️ Check out why users in a variety of roles and industries already love Accelo.
We dove into why platform development is so important for our users and their clients.
Geoff: We want you and your clients to experience an evolution in how you work as the world around you changes. I like to think of the transformation of flight decks on commercial planes as a metaphor for what we’re doing. Compare the couple of computer screens pilots use today to the thousands of switches that used to be present in a cockpit in the 1980s or ‘90s. The interface has changed dramatically, but planes have not lost functionality — in fact, they've actually gained a lot of capabilities.
While the transition to Accelo v4 won’t be quite this dramatic, it’s a similar idea in that we will be upgrading the highest-traffic, most relevant parts of the platform. This will look like more view screens, more usable list screens and improved scheduling and resource management tools. We also want you to be able to offer fair access to great technology to all of your clients regardless of their location, thanks to multi-currency and multi-language features. And fortunately, we don't need to wait until an entirely new aircraft model ships to start delivering these benefits. Our clients will be seeing major improvements across the platform continuously over the next few quarters!
Across our team, we’re spending over 400 hours a day working on v4 because we care about making things easier for you — and, in turn, easier for your clients.
Finally, we looked down the road to understand the long-term impact of this upgrade.
Geoff: What we’re calling our new approach is “lift and shift.” We’re lifting the product we have today and shifting it into a new architecture from a technology perspective and a new skin from a UI perspective. This means a lot of work is going into what might appear like small improvements, but they actually set us up for big things to come.
By making these big changes in architecture and technology, along with our internal development processes, we'll be able to dramatically accelerate our rate of development, platform improvement and, most of all, the rate at which we can deliver for clients.
The launch of the new version later this year isn't the end of this effort — in many ways, it’s just the beginning. The truth is, there's a delicate balance to find between spending longer on a better experience versus giving our users a better experience sooner. We're going to let our users opt into the new version gradually over the better part of a year, and we truly see our efforts on v4 as a recommitment to the long-term success of our client's businesses through our technology.
Hear more about Accelo v4 directly from Geoff and our Product team by registering for the next webinar in our behind-the-scenes series, which will be all about our product research and validation processes.