Eigth Day of CRMas: Giving the Gift of a Configured Navigation Experience

Welcome to Day 8 of our 12 Days of CRMas.  In this blog series, we are going to explore the best and brightest of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013's new features.  Today we'll take a look at the new single window navigation feature and how a configured sitemap will make your CRM users and administrators “happy, happy, happy”!


Memories of CRMas Past

Recently, I was reminiscing about one of my favorite features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011: the role-based security feature, allowing you to grant access based on business units, users and teams.  Once set-up an administrator could show or hide parts of forms, tabs, forms and views with a bit of code and some imagination. This feature helped users access the data and functions they needed while hiding stuff they did not need.


The user Dynamics CRM 2011 experience was better than ever, and made my users work faster and smarter than ever.

Old User Interface


But we still relied on launching new windows in the browser as the user worked through business processes.  But all that “coolness” came with a price, often distracting users with lots of pop-ups and clicks.  Sometimes a user would close a wrong window or get a little lost looking through a stack of open windows.  Plus, clicking and navigating through the navigation controls on the left-side of web-page, was a little daunting.  But, even with a few challenges, it still was one of the best CRM user experiences around and my users loved it.


Shiny, Fresh and New

Fast forward to the recent launch of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 and the Windows 8 Metro User Interface.  Just like the season’s first snow, all is shiny, fresh and new again. 




Big colorful buttons (navigation tiles), simple but smart screen layouts and adaptive / responsive browsing experiences based on the device, browser and the work that is being done.  Users can navigate with a mouse, by swiping or touching a screen, using key strokes or use a combination of them all.  Add that together with role based configurations, security and your users are able to enjoy a more personalized work experience.  Entities that are not needed are hidden, and the user can work in a single window, naturally navigating left and right; up and down; and back again without needing to pop-up a new window.  Your user can focus on their work, looking up to see their navigation history and business process flows to see their status in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 whether On Premise or Online.   




When you convert from CRM 2011 to CRM 2013, your sitemap, security, configuration hierarchies stay intact, they will just be rendered in the new user interface format.  Please remember that navigation will remain the same for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 for Outlook (the Outlook Plug-in), offering the user a consistent and native Outlook experience, intuitive access to Outlook folder structures, while taking advantage of the CRM Sitemap hierarchy.


Adding Wrapping and Bows 

If you really want your users to love CRM 2013 even more than they already do, consider customizing the sitemap and creating some user or role based Navigation Areas and Tiles.  Configuring the Navigation Control Bar has been simplified with tools found on CodePlex. I personally like the XRM Toolbox or if you are in the mood to create “your gift” by hand, grab your favorite XML editor and update the sitemap XML.   You can easily add, duplicate or disable the three different layers in the Sitemap (Areas, Groups and Sub-Areas).  You can even take your project further by creating those “Workplaces” for your users as mentioned above.



Personally, I like to make copies of most of the Navigation Areas, renaming them to reflect the organization or business role.  Next I focus on editing, disabling and reordering the Groups and Sub Areas to meet my user’s needs.  It is quick and has a high impact on navigation.  Remember you can disable most items, don’t delete, but if you make a mistake, rest assured there is a reset to default sitemap function in the XRM Toolbox.

A co-worker recently updated her navigation bars in red with a target icon during a product demonstration.  A very cool and user friendly productivity enhancement that works by putting tasks and work at your user’s fingertips, reducing clicks and navigation errors.



A couple pointers regarding the Navigation Bar Tile design.  The tiles appear to be randomly colored, but are not. The “sometimes colored” and “sometimes gray” tiles are designed to help your users navigate more naturally… and instinctively   A good rule of thumb is to remember that “core entities” are colorful, “custom entities” are green and “non-core entities” are gray.  You can edit the navigation tiles and their icons in the sitemap as well using the XRM Toolbox or with your XML editor.  


Merry CRMas!

By following a few simple steps, you can take Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013’s beautiful, new interface and make it work for your organization.  Who doesn’t like something new? For me, it’s “finger-proofed”, big buttons, colorful prompts and simplified access to my work and tasks… This makes for a very, merry CRMas.