Return of the Dockable Filter Panel

Aug 20, 2013




We spent a lot of time in 5.1 trying to introduce features that were simpler and easier to use for new users. However, one unintended side effect was that we changed parts of the app that our power users touch everyday. Before I dive into the details about what we changed and how we fixed it, I wanted to apologize to all of you out there who were affected. I understand how frustrating and painful it is when the apps you use everyday change for the worse. This post is going to explain some of the reasoning behind those changes, and then I'll talk about some new features we're adding to bring back the functionality some of you lost in 5.1. WARNING: this post will be heavy on the details, so if you're short on time, here's the executive summary:

Today, we're introducing a new feature that will let power users "dock" the filter panel and leave it open on any page in Shotgun. This will allow all of you filter panel experts to work the way you did prior to 5.1.

Design Decisions are Tough

One of the key features in 5.1 was the new "Master / Detail View", which allows you to see a simple list of things on the left and their details on the right. When our design team wireframed this feature, they originally envisioned it as a separate thing from Pages. Pages are useful for viewing a lot of data at once, and the new feature, which we originally called "Browsers", was designed to be a separate part of the project that artists and supervisors could use to quickly find things and see their details, almost like a file browser. This led us to remove as much complexity from the screen as possible, since these people tend to not need a lot of details when searching for things. This also led us to tuck the filter panel into the toolbar as an overlay. We did this for two reasons:
  1. Having the filter panel exposed in the left pane would create a confusing UI where users would see two left panes, one for filtering and one for navigating.
  2. Our detail pages, which show up in the right pane, have lower tabs that might have allowed someone to open two filter panels on the page. While functional, your view becomes pretty cluttered - take a look (yikes!)

When we pitched the browsers to our product team, we spent a lot of time considering the pros and cons of making this a new feature vs. adding this as a mode to our existing Pages. By making it a new feature, we wouldn't break any customer's workflow, but we'd also risk them not configuring their projects to use the new browsers. By adding a "browser mode" to Pages, we'd guarantee that the feature was available to everyone at the studio, but we'd also risk making changes to Pages that people were already happily using. 

Because our goal in 5.1 was to make Shotgun easier and simpler for casual users at the studios, we opted for the more aggressive approach and decided to update Pages with a new browser mode. One of the notable changes resulting from this decision was to make the filter panel an overlay on all Pages. In the end, we thought that would be okay--we were wrong. :)

Feedback on the Change

When 5.1 came out, power users across the board were unhappy.


What used to be 1 click to change a filter became 3!
  • Click once to open the filter panel
  • Click again to choose your new filter
  • Click again to close the filter panel
Furthermore, many people were using the filter panel as a summary / reporting widget to give them insight as to what was on the Page. We hadn't ever considered this use case and immediately realized this was a major step back for our advanced users. So we acted swiftly and decided to make a change that would help these people work the way they used to.

Plan B

We didn't want to completely go back to the old filter panel because we heard from quite a few artists and supervisors that not seeing the filter panel on the page was actually desirable. So we had to design for this scenario:
  • Some people want to see a clean page with nothing in the way like a filter panel or extra UI they don't need
  • Some people want to see the filter panel all the time and make changes to it with one click
Here's where we ended up:

You will now be able to click the "dock" icon to embed the filter panel on the righthand side of the page. Any page you visit in Shotgun will show the filter panel dock until you choose to close it. This is a per-user setting, which means if you choose to dock the filter panel, others don't have to see it on their view of the Page. We hope this is the best of both worlds for the artists and the managers at the studio.

And One More Thing...

Since we revisited the filter panel to make these changes, we also took the opportunity to make a few more things better. First, we now tell you if any filters are selected. Prior to 5.1, we were doing this by highlighting the filter button blue, but this wasn't always clear, and you had to know that right-clicking the button cleared all the filters. Now you'll see text like this:

We also styled our dual-pane filter panel better. The dual-pane filter panel shows up in Task Mode, which some of you use when viewing a list of Tasks on your Shots or Assets. Prior to 5.1, it was really hard to figure out which tab meant "Asset filters" and which tab meant "Task filters". This should be a lot more clear now:

We're Listening

Again, I apologize that we missed these key features out the gate, and I want to assure everyone that when we make these mistakes, we'll be here to listen and fix them. Thank you for sticking with us over the last few weeks while we put the changes into place. If you're a hosted client, you should start to see these changes today. Enjoy!