With every Recollective release we strive to perfect, enhance and innovate the platform. We do so with direct input from hundreds of customers running thousands of studies on Recollective every year — 2016 was no exception.
For the sake of usability, it's impossible to present all of the platform's capabilities in one tidy interface. We know that each researcher makes use of a different combination of features and it's easy to overlook the overall evolution of the platform, even if you use it daily.
We thought we'd round up Recollective's major improvements in 2016 but also highlight many of the smaller usability improvements that add up to a great experience.
I know for certain that we get more valuable feedback than we have engineering cycles, but all feature requests help us focus the roadmap. We look for commonalities and themes so please never be shy to voice your suggestions.
What you won't find listed below are the dozens of major improvements we've made under the hood. Core components that underpin the platform were updated this year (e.g. web server and database technology). A lot of work was also completed this summer to boost performance and overall system reliability. And finally, we expanded our global presence to support deployments in Mexico, which adds to our presence in the USA, Canada, UK and Australia.
We hope you enjoy this end-of-year roundup and learn something new. If you have any specific questions or requests, please submit them inside the application where you normally contact us for support. If you want a demonstration, contact us .
Activities and Task Improvements
Scheduled and sequenced activities, made up of tasks, represent the core interaction for participants in a Recollective study. This year we added an entirely new multi-question task type called "Fill the Blanks". We also greatly improved the visual presentation of activity and task cards.
Fill the Blanks Task Type
This new task type allows you to create a template response for your participants whereby they need only complete the questions or “blanks” you define. Relative to other task types in Recollective, Fill the Blanks has some unique advantages. Its free-form structure maximizes flexibility while being more efficient to setup and complete due to the density of questions on a single page. Also, the template nature of the response provides much more guidance than open ended tasks. Learn more at http://blog.recollective.com/recollective-fall-2016-update/
Activity & Task Card Redesign
Since the major redesign of Recollective in 2015, we've been wanting to refresh the appearance of both Activities and Tasks. We've now made activity cards larger and ensured their menu is more visible. Even the menu options themselves have been streamlined.
All activity and task icons have been redesigned and look great on a background colour that matches the study's theme. Activities now clearly indicate when they are in a draft, closed or archived state. Since required tasks are more common, we now highlight which tasks are optional and how many times they were available for completion but ultimately skipped.
A large part of the activity redesign was to support custom photos on activity cards. We grew the size of the cards and have the photos appearing edge-to-edge.
Activity Response Filters
Every activity has a table listing the completion status for the assigned participants. You can now filter that list by response status (e.g. Completed, Started, Not Started and Incomplete) and then perform important bulk actions on that filtered lists. The most common uses cases are emailing participants that have not completed an activity and purging participants that never returned.
Other Activity Improvements
- Copying and pasting activities and tasks is now more intuitive thanks to a new paste menu.
- We improved the appearance of the 'Next Activity' guidance shown to participants below the main navigation bar. It has a new red label and a small animation to draw the participant's attention.
- A "Task Setup" option now appears during task preview to allow rapid edits.
- During task setup, a "Save and Preview" button helps you test your work.
- You can now rapidly switch between tasks, even while in task setup mode.
- Grid task configurations are now included in the "Instructions Only" portion of the activity transcript.
- Improvements were made to the Activity Setup form such as enlarging the date/time inputs and using a more compact segment selection menu.
A large development theme this year was to improve panelist management. Updates in 2016 took custom profiling and segmentation to another level.
In late 2015, study-level screening questions got promoted to become custom profile fields (they are centrally managed and can be shared across multiple studies). The ability to populate, filter and segment on that data was greatly improved in 2016.
Advanced People Filtering
The process of searching for panelists in Site Administration received a major update. Basic filtering was improved and a new Advanced Filters area is now available. The same changes were also applied to participant selection screens within studies.
Advanced Filters let you define an infinite combination of filter criteria. Not only can you filter on custom fields, but you can also filter on Recollective's built-in fields. For example, you can isolate people whose Last Visit was over 90 days ago AND are deemed Active in a particular study AND are assigned to a given set of segments.
Advanced Filters become truly powerful once you can save the results as a rule for segmentation. We call these new automated and dynamic groupings, "Smart Segments". They are smart relative to the classic form of segmentation now referred to as, "Basic Segments".
Complex integrations with panel companies was made possible in 2016 with the introduction of Webhooks. This functionality provides a simple and trackable way to send callback signals to panel management systems. Webhooks can signal who has qualified to join a study but it can also send notices about activity completions. Ask your sales or implementation consultant if you'd like to learn more about Webhooks (it is a premium feature).
SSO Support for Custom Fields
We also added support for custom panelist fields to the Recollective single sign-on API. It's now possible to dynamically set values for custom panelist fields while automatically generating or updating accounts.
Study Home Page
Regardless of study size or duration, we see the study as a shared space — a community. With this in mind, we focused on how people are welcomed, guided and updated over time and thus introduced the Home tab and its flexible set of cards.
As our final software release in 2016, we are greatly improving the Home page by adding three new card types. They bring activities, discussions and people to the home page in their own highly configurable cards. Additionally, all new studies will start with a default home page template.
Home Page Card Types
- Activity (new for 2016)
- Discussions (new for 2016)
- People (new for 2016)
Over the year, we made a number of other minor improvements to the home page and its cards:
- Card heights are now set automatically ("Fit to Content" option)
- Ability to copy and paste cards in the same study and across studies
- The home page title colour can now be customized
- We improved page locking and unlocking to be more intuitive
- A red "unread" dot appears below the Home tab when the page has been updated since your last visit
- A warning is shown when navigating away from an unpublished draft page
- Photo cards now let you zoom into the shared image
Recollective now supports a total of 13 languages, two of those were added in 2016. Arabic was our first right-to-left language and it looks amazing.
- Arabic (new for 2016)
- Polish (new for 2016)
- Simplified Chinese
A major part of our development work is to identify and improve areas of the software that are more difficult to learn or time consuming to use. We also examine the "extra" work people do before and after interacting with the platform to find ways to streamline their overall research efforts.
Usability improvements are the toughest to notice but are cumulatively more important than any of the larger features listed above. I hope some of your suggestions made it into the list!
Integrated Self-Help Guide
It's now far simpler to get help with the new Self-Help Guide embedded directly within Recollective. It already includes a lot of searchable content and embedded videos but we'll be adding more in 2017. We will soon link interface components to their related help article for even faster, more contextual access.
Improved Email Broadcast Filtering
Recollective has always had great email broadcasting capabilities but this year we added more ways for you to select the distribution list for your communication blast. You can now send an email broadcast to a filtered list of activity respondents. For example, you can message participants that are overdue in completing a single activity. Also, filtering by segments is now possible when sending emails to study participants deemed "Added but not yet invited" or "Invited but not yet joined".
Participants often inquire about emails they received or didn't receive. Now the Site Administration area provides the ability to review all messages that were delivered to a particular user (participant or admin). You can see the full content of the emailed message and instantly resend messages.
Improved Notifications Menu
Notifications received in Recollective are an important driver of participant behaviour. These are the notices, for example, that guide participants to answer your follow-up probes or rejoin discussions. For admins, the notification list acts as a "to do" list of comments and interactions to review.
The notifications menu was greatly improved in 2016. Only unread notices appear now by default (all notices can still be viewed) and you can reverse the sort to see notices in the order they were received. We also introduced a faster way to scroll through long lists of notices.
Search in Dropdown Menus
Across all of Recollective, drop-down selection menus (i.e. those listing segments, studies, activities, discussions, excerpt codes, custom fields, etc.) can now be searched to speed up the process of making selections.
New Client Permissions
Researchers love their clients but sometimes they need space to do some interim work without extra oversight. We added two new client permissions, "Collaborate in backroom" and "View verbatim excerpts". The first permission ensures backroom comments are visible only to Analysts and Moderators by default, while the second ensures that analysts can hide their excerpting and coding analysis until it's ready to be shared.
Other Functional Improvements
- Mobile: Study navigation moved out of sidebar to the bottom
- Rich-Text Editor: Major update was made to the formatted text editor
- Study Preview: Updated yellow status bar and related controls
- Stream: Individual Text Task responses now link to task-specific word cloud in the Stream and on the task response view
- Report and Transcripts: Configuration improvements made for selecting specific activities, tasks or discussion topics
- Study List: Smarter automatic selection of study state filter
- Panelists: Export format is now Excel instead of CSV
- Activities: Forced Sequencing is now enabled by default
- Incentives: Daily maximums are now disabled at first and provide more validation when they are in use to minimize misconfigurations
- Activity Transcripts: Image Review thumbnail generation will no longer delay the generation of the Excel transcript
- HTML Transcripts: New option to simplify the transcript table of contents
Other Visual Improvements
- Various mobile-specific styling improvements for smaller screens
- Updated style, grouping and icons in various menus for greater usability
- Improved formatting of chart legends
- Information messages now match the theme colour instead of remaining blue
- General improvement to photo, video and file icons
- Secondary buttons on shaded backgrounds are now darker and easier to see. The darker colour matches the study theme colour for forms.
On to 2017!
What a year 2016 has been! I sincerely hope our advancements have improved your online research experience. We have some amazing breakthrough enhancements planned for 2017 so stay tuned. Your ideas and feedback are always welcome!