Business Catalyst Admin UI V3 - Partner Preview

- Monday, November 14, 2011

We're launching a public preview for our new V3 admin user interface next Monday, including a "try" link at the top of the BC Admin interface  (for Partners only). This is primarily an UI refresh, as we continue to develop a very clear and intuitive UI framework that should significantly improve usability in the future.

BC UI v3 Alpha Overview from Business Catalyst on Vimeo.

Allow me to explain the philosophy behind how we see BC being launched more gradually in the future. I'll start with a story :)

When I joined BC 6 months ago, the team were in the process of building BC V3 from the ground up using a new .NET framework, based on some designs provided by our XD team. I found 3 problems with this approach:

  1. The new UI, while involving a lot of change, was not validated with many customers. We feared that we would throw away everything good in v2, and build something that you might have not liked or found usable when launched.
  2. The estimated timeline from engineering to rebuild BC was more than one year. It was too much, and I feared that we might lose our momentum if going down that route.
  3. Lastly, the framework we used for rebuilding the backend, while a modern framework, was completely different from what we're exposing Partners - modules, tags and BC webforms. This was not the right approach, as we believe BC is a platform and we should be eating our own dogfood.
So I stopped that existing effort and started working on a new product philosophy doing everything in a platform-focused way. 
  1. We began prototyping and validating a lot with Partners and end customers. In the last 3 months, we've met hundreds of Partners and business owners, showed them our direction, gathered feedback, incorporated it, and changed our product vision based on this feedback.
  2. We conducted a large Partner survey that was answered by almost 2000 people to understand what you like/don't like about or product - and what your needs, and your customer needs are.
  3. We've introduced an NPS survey - and even if this might have been annoying for a little while as it was triggered too often - told us exactly what your problems were, and what do we need to fix
  4. We looked at our product and realized that you need a more powerful markup language - and we came up with Liquid Markup. That you need more powerful Web Apps - and we're reinventing them completely. We've also started a long journey to improve the usability of our application.
  5. And in the meanwhile, we've solved tens of bugs and wishlist items

Regarding the V3 release - as BC is feature rich and has a long learning curve, we wanted to show a preview of what’s coming, without waiting until everything is finalized. Gradual improvements and releases are the way to go, to help Partners and customers learn the system gradually and provide feedback.

When we look at our Admin interface, we see a collection of modules and Web Apps - and we want to implement it this way - to open up our platform and allow anybody to write a new module for BC, that will allow frontend rendering and backend lists and forms to manage data. This will be combined with a Web App marketplace, where you will be able to search and install Web Apps for various niche needs - real estate, better blogging, better photo galleries, etc.

We're still working on creating this very extensible infrastructure for BC, but we hope you will enjoy the evolution of the product until we're ready with the new vision. Just append /Adminconsole/ to any BC website.

Feel free to report problems using the small "Feedback" tab on the right side of the UI (you can also vote on other people's feedback to bring something to our attention). We'll do our best to solve most problems before we launch the new Admin console in beta for all customers, including your clients.

In terms of roadmap, we'll release the new UI when it will be better than the current one, after validating it with partners and customers, and give an opportunity for customers to learn the new UI. We plan to have a transition plan in place while the two UIs will work in parallel:

  • This release – Partner beta
  • Early next year – Customer beta
  • Early next year – new customers get v3 by default
  • Spring next year – all customers get v3 by default
  • Spring next year – V2 gets decommissioned

And, as always, we're committed to re-inventing BC to be the best platform for building online businesses.