Making ACS Better

Adobe Campaign Standard is a fairly good product but only when you get used to it. It takes quite some time for anybody to get used to it.

If you have a hard time understanding ACS it is not your fault, it is the design. Believe me, it is not your fault. If you are interested in reading how the design creates problems or solves problems you can read more about it in the book – Design of Everyday Things. This argument is elaborated quite clearly in the book.

Here are some of the areas which I think, ACS has a lot of potential to improve on. It can make the life of Marketers/Developers working on ACS much easier and can eventually make them act as advocates of the product.

Terminology & Labels

If you have an existing product – it is always better to replicate the same terminologies and concepts in the new one.

But in ACS, there is always some deviation between terminologies used in ACC vs ACS. Examples being – Resources/Schemas, Lists/ Audiences, profiles/recipients etc. In most cases though the concept is the same, it does make a difference for a new user. A prudent user always has the question:

How is this different from X in ACC?” – A question which could be avoided indeed.

If there is a reason for using a different term – the same should be called out in the documentation on how this X in ACS is different to Y in ACC – if at all. It is a possibility but one should communicate !

This is a best practice and is a recognized law in UX – read more here Jakobs Law.

User Interface

Sadly, there is a lot which can be improved here. The user navigation is not intuitive. Finding stuff is hard. 

Do you know where can one find typologies ? Where can one find content blocks ? Where can one maintain external accounts? It is a hit & trial here. It is not 100% bad but still it is very far from perfect. Some improvements:

Navigation is Deep

The main problem here is it is very deeply navigated. It has more than 3 to 4 levels easily. This could have been easily avoided.

Product Wide Search is Absent

There should have been a search bar in ACS to find things which are needed. Instead of trying to find where that specific element is. Example – If I want to work on content blocks I should be able to search for it & go straight into it.

Accessing Mostly Used Elements is Difficult

Mostly used elements mean  – Workflows, Campaigns & Programs. The search functionality on a workflow works on the basis of ID & label. I cannot search on the basis of any other parameter. As I mentioned earlier, Navigation is a pain. So, my only option is to bookmark the workflow link in my browser or save the workflow ID or name for later use. It would have been way easier to save “favorite items” in ACS itself.

The Profile

The profile where one can find details of the profile is displayed in a list format where one has to scroll across left & right, add columns. A simple card based view would have helped here and much better.

The Activities

This is again not very intuitive. One can only learn what an activity is doing or what it will do only when one has run or used it in the past. Though this is true with almost any tool – what can be improved here is the information which is provided in the activities.

Ex: Can you understand how is an enrichment different to a reconciliation based on the information given in the activities.

Can you understand what option to select while saving an audience without actually trying it out first or without reading the documentation.

A “useful label” is what I am suggesting. The information given in the activities is rarely of any help.

Error Logging

Again a very big problem. Based on my experience I can resolve issues after reading the logs only 60-70% of times. This is very low for an enterprise product.

No clear mention of Affordances

Affordances are properties of objects which show users the actions they can take.

By just looking and reading at the data related activities in ACS, it is hard to imagine what they can really do. One needs to play with it & then only one gets to know  – what data transformation actually happens and the full potential of the activity.

All these data related and targeting activities are really cool but for a newbie there is a struggle. There is a lot of creative use which can happen with the activities.

These are some of the very critical areas which when improved can lead to a huge WOW to the users.

Let me know, in the comments if any pain points or any items of delight as well.

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