Why we changed the dashboard widgets in WC 2.1

WooCommerce 2.1 has a new dashboard widget which replaces the previous version’s “Right now”, sales, and recent order widgets. Some users will like this change, others may ‘miss’ the old widgets. In this post I’ll explain the reasoning behind the changes.

What we had

The old right now widget
The old right now widget

2.0 had a set of widgets, largely unchanged since 1.0.x:

  • Right Now – Displayed counts of products and orders.
  • Recent Orders – Listed several recent orders with status and some brief order info.
  • The old sales chart
    The old sales chart

    Sales – A flot powered chart showing sales per month.

The disadvantages to these

Our old widgets had disadvantages to users and to us as developers, including:

  • More widgets make it harder to know where to look for the data you are after.
  • More widgets are harder to maintain.
  • If you wanted to see detailed reporting, you’d still need to go to the main reports page in admin – having an simplified, but large, sales report on the dashboard is unnecessary.
  • Not useful without going to the full view
    Not useful without going to the full view

    What good are recent orders when:

    1. you only really need to see the orders you need to action on and
    2. you can see the exact same information (with more detail) from the orders page itself (1 click away).
  • The additional ‘Right Now’ items, excluding the processing orders count, is pretty useless information day to day. It isn’t something you need to see every login.
  • Relying on the styling of ‘Right Now’ could cause future issues with styling.

Design decisions

We decided to, rather than duplicate functionality from other sections, link to the relevant sections from the widget.

We then narrowed down the key information that a shop owner would like to see upon login to:

  • Stock levels requiring their attention
  • A quick overview of sales
  • Orders on-hold they will need to take action on
  • Orders processing they need to take action on

Everything else could go.

The solution: One widget to rule them all

The end result was a single widget containing only the most useful data:

New widget

Sales now only shows your monthly grand total, and also has a little sparkline to the right showing any trends.

You then have your best seller, again with a bar chart sparkline should you wish to see if there is a trend for this item.

Then you have the most useful part; orders. On-hold and processing orders (which are the ones you need to take action on) have a count.

Finally you have counts for items low in stock and out of stock; these are the products you’ll probably need to action upon.

Each ‘section’ links through to the correct place in admin, so for instance, if you clicked on-hold orders, you’d be taken to the orders page with the on-hold filter enabled.

You’ll notice the styling has all been cleaned up, and the new widget is way more lightweight than the old three. I’m personally very happy with it and see it as a much needed improvement for 2.1.

What do you think? Was this the right choice?





5 responses to “Why we changed the dashboard widgets in WC 2.1”

  1. David Decker avatar
    David Decker

    Yes, it’s the right way to go, congrats on that 🙂

  2. Andrew Dobson avatar
    Andrew Dobson

    Do not like not knowing what my daily sales are right away. perhaps a future update would be to give users a choice of what to display on the dashboard

  3. KJ avatar

    Hey mike thanks for the great article, I’m curious if theres a way to hook into this widget to modify it?

  4. Maurice Castelijn avatar

    I have to disagree, I found the older layout (on the homepage that is!) better. So we’re now looking for an extension or plugin now that will create a better dashboard overview. The “detailed report” with the graphs can work if you could just switch things off / filter and have scale adjusted automatically to make it more clear and relevant. Shouldn’t be difficult for you guys! I guess it’s still work in progress. Maybe hire a business intelligence expert for a couple of days to design it, then implement it.

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