I got JIRA’s automated customer satisfaction quiz today. I got carried away with my response, and I thought I’d share it. Out of seven, I called Jira’s “ease of use” 1. I’ve cleaned it up (slightly) slightly for wider viewing.
Jira’s fundamental flaw is its awkward user experience. It gives you enormous power to customize your workflow, but all in the form of discrete, non-uniform and definitely not orthogonal tools. Each customization tool needs to be discovered/found and learned separately – except for a few (very good!) shared notions like JQL you have to teach them to yourself from scratch. The mass-edit stories flow is a great example: it in no way relates to the rest of your interactions with the board, it’s just a bunch of menus. I mean seriously, you guys are one of the biggest names in Software Development right now. You’re making professional tools, but that does not mean they have to be a drag to use! Overall the interaction with each bit of Jira feels independently evolved rather than designed. I’m not saying that you should replace every flow, but as you add new ones (and you are adding new ones – Jira is totally different now from when I first used it in about 2015, and it’s much better!) try to have a uniformity so that knowledge of how to use one can transfer to the others.
Unlike, say, Grafana, where you can save, load, share, version-control and ask intelligent Stack Overflow questions about your graphs because they are actually saved in text form, Jira is entirely (as far as I can tell) UI driven and Database-backed. It’s very hard to google how to do things or find instructions because the things you’re looking for aren’t always labeled, or are very small text somewhere hiding in a menu. Having ‘source code’ for all customizable features (and I don’t mean writing extensions, I mean, for example, the configuration of our board or card layout!) even if it was reams and reams of gross XML, would be preferable to the current state of affairs. JIRA’s customization is its strong suit, but these customizations are difficult to share and communicate even with other teams within our organization, to say nothing of finding good tutorials.
At one point I was like “I want to make a new graph” so I go to the graphs page. No “new” button. I want to add a custom filter, so I go to the custom filters and didn’t find a new button. I’ll admit – I’m a total neanderthal when it comes to modern web UX. However, it seems to me that if you’d like to change or add a thing, the option to do it should be right next to the existing things. This principle applies to the backlog view, for example – if I want to create a story, I can click on the end of the backlog. Or inside a sprint. Or also the “+” icon which is inexplicably located in the navigation menu on the left. If you need a video to communicate how to use a thing on a computer, the thing isn’t easy enough. I would suggest that to broaden your reach, you should do most of your UX testing with people who haven’t become acclimated to Jira’s way of doing things. Jira is 100x more powerful than Trello, so why do I still see people using Trello? Because although you can’t customize Trello to do everything, everything it does do, it does fine.
Don’t just be Pivotal with more customization or Trello with more features. There should be a right way to accomplish things, the right way should be obvious, and it should be easy to communicate what the right way is to others, or apply that right way to other things. I’m counting on you fine folks.