Microsoft Dynamics 365 User Interface Design: Quick Wins for a Quick Makeover

Beauty is in the “exPERIENCE” of the User

Your Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution can be a powerful asset. One of the most important factors influencing its potential impact is the user experience. An efficient user interface can lead to successful user adoption, but the opposite is true as well. A solution can meet all the functional requirements and still fail if the user interface does not promote adoption and consistent use of your Dynamics 365 implementation.

By following certain best practices, you can be assured of a compelling end-user experience, and buy-in. Of course experience is subjective, so continuous improvement based on feedback is always important, and by considering these Quick Wins strategies you can be confident about getting off on the right foot. By updating your system navigation, views, and forms, your organization will be one step closer to fully leveraging its Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution.

System Navigation, Dress to Impress

Configure Themes

This has been one of the most requested user interface features since the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. There have been many clever but unsupported ways to configure themes in the past, but with a recent update, Microsoft has introduced them as native capabilities. Identity is important even for internal users, since effective brands start from the inside and associating your theme with the culture and personality of the organizations promotes stronger ownership and alignment.

To configure a theme yourself, go to Settings >> Customization >> Themes. Now you can create a new theme where you can upload a logo and adjust multiple colour settings to match your brand guidelines.

Configure Themes

Figure 1: The Theme editor page, under Settings >> Customization >> Themes.

Configure SiteMap

Prior to the release for Microsoft Dynamics 365 in December 3016, you could only two ways to edit the sitemap. You would have to either manually editing through a customization .xml file or use a 3rd party tool called XrmToolbox. Using the built-in SiteMap Editor, you can setup a focused area for Sales Management within your system that provides instant access to the dashboard, data, and information your sales managers and sales team need. Taking it a step further, you’re also able to show and hide sub-areas and entities based on users’ security role.

To read more about configuring your sitemap, including a step-by-step walkthrough, you can read our quick post How to Edit SiteMap Using the New Microsoft Dynamics SiteMap Designer.

Configure Ribbon

Adding buttons to the ribbon can be very helpful in saving time and improving a user’s efficiency. While you can create custom workflows that may provide similar benefits to a custom button on your ribbon, it doesn’t apply to every situation and still can be a hassle to create.

Although there is no built-in capability to customize the ribbon, you can download a free tool online called the Ribbon Workbench 2016. With it, you’re able to change your user interface in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and create custom split, fly out, and shortcut buttons for important functionalities.

Configure Ribbon

Figure 2: The Ribbon Workbench 2016 tool, available for free download.

Update Custom Entity Icon

One quick win that can get users the information they need visually is to update custom entity icons. While simple, it provides a nice visual that can drive user interaction. In order to update an icon, go to Settings >> Customization >> Solutions. When you have the Solutions page open, you can choose any Entity, where you can find an Update Icon tab at the top. Keep in mind that you will need to provide 16-pixel and 30- pixel icons to be able to size and measure to any device. You can go to icons8.com and flaticons.com to find plenty of free icons that you can use.

Update Icon

Figure 3: The Update Icon page, where you can upload 16-pixel and 30-pixel icons.

Views, Looking Good

compare Reference vs. transactional Records

Certain information can be valuable or useless depending on the context of the situation. For example, when viewing transactional records such as Orders, it can be helpful knowing the Created On field as it provides a time-stamp. On the other hand, for reference records such as Ratings, the Created On field can be a meaningless data point.

Simplify Lookup View

Continuing on from the previous item, let’s say you identify a reference record that has irrelevant data. In our example, that can be the custom Company Business drop-down field within an Opportunity. You can identify it as either platinum, gold, silver, and more. The Created On data point that appears below each rating is unhelpful in this case and only takes up space.

To remove that item, when in the Solutions page, go to Ratings >> Views >> Rating Lookup View and delete the Created On item. Hit Publish and you are all set!

Visualize custom views

A picture is worth a thousand words, so visual aides must at least be worth a hundred. By adding custom JavaSript code to the web resource of a rating, you can create custom visualizations that deliver data and information in a more easy-to-digest format.

Visualizing Custom Views

Figure 4: Visual cues can be a great way to get a quick sense of the data.

Limit Quick & Advanced find views

Sometimes less is more and managing your Quick Find and Advanced Find Views are some of those times. Rather than having a plethora of columns to read through, it can be easier for you to find your answer by limiting the data fields that appear after a search.

For example, if you know you often run searches for Account fields and rarely so for Contact fields, it can save you a lot of time in the long run by removing the Contact fields in your search results. All of this can be managed in the Solutions page. Be mindful of what you are looking for before removing certain entities from the search results!

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Forms, How You Doin’?

Consistent and Uniform Design

Consistency is key, even for of tabs, sections, and subgrids. By having a similar approach across various record types, such as Accounts, Cases, and Opportunities, users are able to quickly identify where a given field is going to be. If the design of various record types are inconsistent, it can lead to users playing a cat-and-mouse game with the information they are looking to find. It may seem minor at first, but it is these aspects can help deliver a successful user interface.

only Include Important Fields

You’re likely picking up on one of the themes of improving your user interface by now, that being to keep it simple. This can be a stark reminder in the age of big data and the focus we tend to have on it. While we do want to gain as much information on our customers as possible so that we can make informed decisions, that doesn’t mean presenting all of the information we have every time we want a single data point. Including only important fields in our records reduces abandonment and increases user satisfaction and efficiency.

Configure Field Label Width

Custom fields can be great, but what happens if the label is longer than the standard 150 pixels provided? Seeing a portion of a label can be an annoyance but the good news is that it’s a quick fix. If you’re looking to change the field label width within an opportunity, you can go to the Solutions page, click on Opportunity >> Forms and create an optimized record, where you can set the width of field labels.

Align Field Placement

If you’ve tried to cut down on the number of fields included in a form, but still find it to look cluttered, a great way to organize your information can be to add section headings. As illustrated below, by going to the Solutions page, you can add in headings in an Opportunity record to identify general information, details, contact information, and more. This also applies to subgrids.

Align Field Placement

Figure 5: An Opportunity record with section headings, including Information, Details, and more.

bpf-Driven Field Requirements

Field requirements should be driven by the Business Process Flow. For example, having the Topic field a general requirement in an Opportunity may seem obvious, but perhaps in your industry, the topic may not be known until later stages, such as in the Develop stage rather than the Qualify stage. In these cases, it may be better to keep your information clean by having the Topic a requirement later on, rather than having the user fill in a temporary Topic only to forget to change it.

Visualize Forms

Our last suggestion is to visualize forms with Charts or HTML Web Resources. Instead of looking through a list of opportunities on an item-by-item basis, you can change the subgrid to show the information in a chart, where it is broken down by what stage the opportunity is in and its associated dollar value. Immediately, you’re able to gain key insights into what you can expect in both the short and long term from these opportunities. Simply create an optimized record as previously shown and click on Show Chart Only in the Set Properties page.

Visualize Forms

Figure 6: Properties page where you can set the subgrid to Show Chart Only, with the chart in the background.

Key Takeaways, Et Voilà!

As you’ve seen, there are dozens of effective ways to improve the user experience by streamlining and customizing your Microsoft Dynamics 365 user interface. It may seem overwhelming at first so here are three easy points that summarize what to look for:

  • Do away with clicks and clutter. The narrower the path, the easier the journey.
  • Less is more. An overload of information can create headaches and make what you’re looking for harder to find. Provide only the information that is needed.
  • Whether it’s an icon or other imagery, visualizations help identify key information and trends at a glance.

Want a visual walkthrough of any of the quick wins provided? You can check our webinar on this very topic titled Beauty is in the Eye of the User: A Practical Guide to User Interfacec Design in Microsoft Dynamics 365. Perhaps you’re looking for a more personal touch? Feel free to contact us, email myself, or leave a comment below and we would be happy to help.

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