#77 Second GUI / User interface that is more intuitive to use


I have been using CRM systems over the last 15 years. Some of them more popular then others. Most sales people will recognize Salesforce.com, Act!, Goldmine and Maximizer. I have used them all over the years and some of them side to side when needed. Recently I have been looking to replace our Maximizer Enterprise license with an opensource alternative.

My experience with openCRX is that it looks on the website with the best of breed solution. Good standards, well balanced architecture and stable as it can be. I have run some test over a one year period.

But the user side of this CRM tool is not so bright. With all my experience I have a hell of a time using the interface because it is totally prorietary compared to the others. It feels like the linux/DOS command line GUI compared to Apple. Probably great for some programmers who love to dig through piles of information to learn it. But really, for people who are suppose to use it, it is not close to what you need and intuitive use. Try a new user to learn how to add a company, their contact info and a contact person with also a home address. Ten to one that a new person will not succeed and likely to give up after trying too long.

To test my experience I have given the latest distribution to my MIS director who said to me: "Looks great on the specification sheets, it eats server resources but we can overlook that. However, I cannot figure out how to use it and will need substantial time to figure it out, and no way I am going to support other people and train them." And in all fairness, I don't want my sales people, customer service people and technical support people to constantly struggle with a tool that is not intiuitive enough. And also my key resellers will never get access through a web interface because they too will not know and remember how to use it.

In our last stage review we put it side to side with SugarCRM which is close to Salesforce.com. I don't know where to start but that interface is what you must slap on to openCRX to make it adoptable. I searched the tracker for GUI and interface and found none. But I cannot imagine that others have not felt the same way as I did. In fact those who I showed it told me right away that the interface totally turned them off. For sake of argument, why not let the users decide and have two interfaces to select from. One is similar to Salesforce.com and SugarCRM, and the other the current GUI today.

I already know that once you flip the interface to SugarCRM style you will never turn it back to the openCRX style. It is like the autofocus and light feature on the Sony digital cameras. They document it as well that one you flip that switch you are very unlikely to switch it back.

I hope somebody is willing to pick this up because it surely is very pittifull that such a promising CRM system has such a weak front-end. Do I really have to settle for SugarCRM as the next best because openCRX is not usabable for the users?

Kind Regards, GZ


  • Christoph Mueller

    Thanks for the detailed feedback - of course you're right (how could a user not be right?). And yes, we are aware of the many shortcomings of the standard GUI. Let me just throw in a few issues to consider (knowing that they don't make the standard GUI any better, but at least you understand why things are the way they are...):

    • the openCRX standard GUI is based on openMDX/portal, a generic and model-driven HTML GUI (i.e. the GUI is not manually programmed and not optimized for use as a CRM front-end let alone geared towards end-users like the GUIs of SugarCRM, Salesforce.com, etc.)

    • there already are various alternative GUIs available, although they are not as universal as the standard GUI and typically focus on particular use cases (Sunbird or MS Outlook for Calendaring, MS Outlook for contacts, lots of IMAP clients for e-mail, etc.)

    • you can easily provide your own custom GUI (see http://www.opencrx.org/opencrx/2.3/customizing/openCRX_customizing.html#3.1.Overview%20openCRX%20GUI%20Types|outline ), Java-based (like openCRX/store) or non-Java-based; if you like SugarCRM's GUI, it shouldn't be too hard to connect it to the openCRX backend (it will take a bit of fiddling and programming, but nothing too complicated...).

    • if you only need to cover a few select use cases, openCRX offers lots of customizing and extension options; if it can't be done with simple customizing you can always program your own JSP (we call them Wizards) to do exactly what your users want

    If your take on the above is "I don't care, I just want an easy to use GUI out of the box", then I hope you agree with us that we're moving in the right direction with some of the new features we are currently working on (see http://www.opencrx.org/opencrx/2.3/new.htm for a full list). Have a look at the demo server where we already provide a "more user friendly" view on accounts (e.g. various important address types have been "pulled up" from the address grid right into the account's attribute pane for easy editing).

    So, thanks again for your feedback, which is much appreciated. And if you happen to develop a cool alternative GUI, don't forget to tell us - we'd be happy to promote it ;-)

  • I0I

    I0I - 2008-11-24

    Thanks for the preview links. I believe it is a very good start in the right direction. I would still encourage a complete overhaul of the entire user interface because right now at least some of it is patching work. Basically the complete user interface is substandard for simple users and it would require a complete rework to get to the right point. Not piece by piece because then you need to learn two user interfaces which is actually worse. When you can switch the entire UI between today's interface and a different interface that is more widely accepted then it would hit a homerun in my opinion. For us it doesn't make sense to spend so many resources to do this but I will be the first to review a new user interface on openCRX. We will have to wait for the next release to come out unless my IT Manager wants to join a specification and review group that would assist this effort.

    I do have two notes on the installation. It has become much easier since the previous release. It took us only several hours to get it completely off the ground and running, including importing demo data which we had set ready from earlier tests. The only two things with an installation for Windows Server that a user must know that are likely to go wrong are these two:

    1) Java directory must be set to the SDK directory, the JDK installation skips it and you have to manually point it and reboot the server. Ony then will you get the SDK in the system tray, which is required to operate. This is not failure from openCRX but rather from the Java SDK installer. To correct this: properties on My Computer, Last Tab, button Environmental Variables, change/add PATH=C:\Sun\SDK\jdk, change JAVA_HOME=C:\Sun\SDK\jdk, change JRE_HOME=C:\Sun\SDK\jdk\jre. The last path change may not be required because it seems to run sequentially and the first home directory is the one that would be used by the startup batch files.

    2) The batch files starting the openMDX contain the incorrect Java SDK directory path and you may have to correct this. Click on the link Start Tomcat+LWC end edit (not from the desktop but the Start, Programs menu). Change in control.bat the path with set JAVA_HOME=C:\Sun\SDK\jdk. Once changed and started all other batch files seemed to follow that so you do this once and it is done.

    The problem describtion would be "Cannot open openCRX in browser" or "Page does not open in IE".

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    Anonymous - 2012-12-25

    Such an intelligent discussion thank you both for sharing your insights. I am just now starting to work with OpenCRX within our iOffice with the intention of integrating with Zimbra collaboration server. Some features in Zimbra compliment OpenCRX with OpenCRX providing the needed sales and marketing BI components.

    Would very much like to share, contribute and learn from the community that has evolved here. Thank you for being so generous with your ideas - I am committed to be equally transparent.



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