Design

Multiple Timelines

Nov 11, 2014

These past two weeks, I’ve been heads-down, working on an incredibly important feature for Cushion—support for multiple timelines. This feature was not only complex, but also time-sensitive, as beta users were already starting to plan for the next year. In building Cushion, I’ve been actively holding back on specific features that aren’t as prevalent as others. Sometimes these once-dormant features demand your attention much earlier than expected, resulting in a more stressful sprint to finish. This is why we have betas.

Multiple timelines is one feature I’ve especially been pushing off because of its complexity as well as its never-ending knot of decisions. I knew it would be tough from the start, but I didn’t think it would be this bad. The high-level issues I needed to tackle consisted of establishing a way to navigate between timelines and filtering the data to the selected timeline. This sounds pretty simple until you realize a few scenarios that make it anything but simple, like projects spanning multiple timelines. The deeper I descended into the depths of the feature, the more troubling scenarios I discovered.

Instead of just glossing over them with a summary, I’d like to highlight as many as I can remember, including both the scenario and my solution.

2014-11-11-project-span-all

Scenario: A project spans multiple timelines.
Solution: Include project in all timelines it spans.


2014-11-11-project-around

Scenario: A project starts before and finishes after a specific timeline.
Solution: Include project in that timeline.


2014-11-11-project-ongoing-estimated-finish

Scenario: A project is ongoing with an estimated finish date.
Solution: Include project in all timelines it spans, using the maximum of the current date and its estimated finish date as the end.


2014-11-11-project-no-end-in-sight

Scenario: A project is ongoing with no estimated finish date.
Solution: Include project in all timelines it spans as well as all timelines beyond the current date.


2014-11-11-project-no-dates

Scenario: A project has no estimated or actual start or finish dates.
Solution: Include project in timeline containing the current date.


2014-11-11-project-with-invoice

Scenario: A project finished in one timeline, but has an invoice in another timeline.
Solution: Include project in both timelines.


2014-11-11-invoice-issued-before-today

Scenario: An unpaid invoice issued before current date timeline.
Solution: Include invoice only in current date timeline.


2014-11-11-invoice-issued-in-future

Scenario: An unpaid invoice issued after current date timeline.
Solution: Include invoice only in timeline containing issue date.


2014-11-11-invoice-paid-before-today

Scenario: A paid invoice issued in a previous timeline.
Solution: Include invoice only in timeline containing paid date.


2014-11-11-estimate-ongoing-no-estimated-finish

Scenario: The estimate of an ongoing project with no estimated finish date.
Solution: Include estimate in timeline containing current date and all future timelines.


2014-11-11-estimate-today-and-future

Scenario: The estimate of a project spanning multiple timelines.
Solution: Include estimate in timeline containing current date and any future timeline containing project.


2014-11-11-estimate-no-dates

Scenario: The estimate of a project with no dates.
Solution: Include estimate in timeline containing current date.


Phew. Now that we got those out of the way, the remaining problem exists in navigating these timelines. I wanted it to be dead-simple to switch between them. You should be able to quickly glance several years in the past and return to the current timeline just as easily. For months, I thought of reusing the current timeline tab for more than just indicating the current timeline. I even had dreams of the interaction—I just wondered if it would actually work out as planned.

2014-11-11-timeline-switch

Luckily, it did. When you’re not in the scheduling or budgeting view, the current timeline tab simply navigates to your default view. Then, if you hover it, a down arrow appears below it, prompting another click that expands the timeline menu. From there, you can select a different timeline and quickly navigate to it. To switch back, simply use the menu again to select the current timeline.

Selecing a timeline appends a parameter to the URL, indicating the timeline ID, which then grabs both the date range for the scheduling view and the financial goals for the budgeting view. Without the parameter, Cushion uses the default timeline, which can be set in the Timelines page. Typically, this will be the timeline that contains the current date.

As you could imagine, this was a whirlwind feature to finish, and after two weeks, I’m so relieved to be able to check it off the list. Now that it’s finished, I plan to send out even more invites for the paid beta. If you’re interested, tweet me with your email address.

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Archive

  1. Funding Cushion
    Story
  2. Hiring a Team of Freelancers
    Story
  3. Taking a Real Break From Work
    Story
  4. Slack as a Notification Center
    Dev
  5. Document Your Features
    Story
  6. 300
    Story
  7. Vacations
    Design
  8. Offering Discounts
    Design
  9. Waves of Traffic
    Story
  10. Less Blogging, More Journaling
    Story
  11. Retention Through Useful Features
    Design
  12. The Onboarding Checklist
    Design
  13. Spreading the Word
    Story
  14. From Beta to Launch - The Subdomain
    Dev
  15. From Beta to Launch - Sign up
    Design
  16. From Beta to Launch - Messaging
    Design
  17. Launch
    Story
  18. Authenticating with 3rd Party Services
    Dev
  19. Intro to Integrations
    Design
  20. Inspiration vs Imitation
    Story
  21. The Emotional Rollercoaster
    Story
  22. Designing Project Blocks
    Design
  23. Everything in Increments
    Story
  24. Deleting Your Account
    Design
  25. Designing the Subscription Page
    Design
  26. Rewriting the Timeline
    Dev
  27. Restructuring the Individual Project Page
    Design
  28. Project Blocks
    Story
  29. Redesigning the Homepage
    Design
  30. Multiple Timelines
    Design
  31. Archiving and Estimate Differences
    Design
  32. Multiple Financial Goals
    Design
  33. Zooming in on the Timeline
    Design
  34. Currency
    Dev
  35. Preferences, Accounts, and a Typeface Change
    Design
  36. Sending Out the First Email
    Story
  37. Currency Inputs, Notifications, and Invoice Nets
    Design
  38. Dots and Lines
    Design
  39. Calculating in the Database and Revealing Tendencies
    Dev
  40. Improved Form UX
    Design
  41. Cushion is Online
    Story
  42. Schedule Timeline Patterns
    Design
  43. A Slimmer Schedule Timeline
    Design
  44. The Schedule Timeline
    Design
  45. Plugging in Real Data for the First Time
    Design
  46. Transitions and Project Lists
    Design
  47. Death to Modals
    Design
  48. The Individual Project Page
    Design
  49. Estimated Incomes and Talks with Other Freelancers
    Story
  50. Statuses to Lists and the Paid Beta
    Story
  51. The Timeline
    Story
  52. Invoice Terminology
    Dev
  53. Modal Forms
    Dev
  54. Wiring the Backend to the Frontend
    Dev
  55. Balancing Design and Dev
    Story
  56. Timecop, Monocle, and Vagrant
    Dev
  57. Going with Ruby and Sinatra
    Dev
  58. Ditching local-first and trying out Node.js
    Dev
  59. Switching to AngularJS
    Dev
  60. Building the Table with Vue.js
    Dev
  61. Clients, Projects, and Invoices
    Dev
  62. Introduction
    Story

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