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In April of this year, NationBuilder released the most significant update to our software since our launch: a full redesign of the main control panel. With the update, we aimed to provide customers with an easier, more seamless platform to navigate as they do the important work of growing their communities. The road to getting these updates out the door was neither short nor simple––but at NationBuilder, we pride ourselves on doing hard things. Especially when it comes to making it easier for our customers to build the future.

The NationBuilder control panel

In June 2017, VP of Design Jesse Haff and Designer Andrew Possehl conducted a three-day design sprint to explore the possibilities of a redesign––from there followed think tanks, demos, user testing on all the UIs built, and most importantly, the creation of a new design system that would provide a framework for maintaining and updating the UI moving forward. Then, just about a year ago, a team was assembled specifically to develop the new control panel. They named themselves “Pod Phoenix,” as the work they were about to take on would help the NationBuilder user interface rise up from the ashes of its former self, in a sense, and be reborn, new and improved. 

Pod Phoenix was made up of designers, software engineers, product and engineering managers, and contractors from all over the United States and Canada. And yet, they still comprised a smaller team than a project like this would usually require:

“I’m so proud of the team that worked on this...when you look at other companies that have a software footprint as big as NationBuilder, there’s hundreds of people who work on those projects––our team had only a small fraction of that,” said Jesse Haff, NationBuilder’s VP of Design.

Although Pod Phoenix was far from triple-digit numbers, the small but mighty team was ready for the task at hand, and their objective was clear: redesign 800 views within the product. What was unclear, however, was how long a massive project like this would take to complete. Predictions ranged from six weeks to six months, with third-party advisors suggesting it could even be as late as 2020 before it was complete.

But Pod Phoenix, eventually joined by the larger NationBuilder team, would go on to defy expectations by launching 800 new, updated views of our product in April of 2019, several months ahead of schedule. Given that the product hadn’t seen such a major update since it was first released nine years before, the task was nothing short of overwhelming.

How did they do it? Stay tuned for the next post in this three-part series to learn what contributed to getting this project over the finish line earlier than predicted––including themed playlists, custom emojis, powerful leadership, and the communal effort of the entire NationBuilder team.

And, if you’re interested in taking a look at the new and improved control panel, join in on one of our weekly software demos. If you’d like to jump right in to explore the updates on your own, you can start a free trial where you’ll have access to the redesigned control panel as your default experience.

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