Colors: updated thoughts based on your feedback

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June 30, 2021

I wrote a blog post asking about how much customization we should enable for colors in Workflowy, and got a lot of great feedback, so thanks. It has changed my thinking on this cluster of features, here’s an update.

A random sample of the feedback

  • People really want to highlight and color specific segments of text.
  • Tags are more useful than direct node/bullet coloring
  • The design for coloring bullets was much too subtle, and wouldn’t accomplish the goal of having items “pop” visually.
  • A lot of people asked, “Why are you doing this? What are the use cases?”
  • There wasn’t a clear winner (to me) between “I’d like to customize a lot” and “Keep it ridiculously simple”
  • Power users kept bringing up how they do custom CSS already, what’s the point?

Updated priorities for colors

  • Tag colors
  • Text coloring and highlighting
  • Native support for custom CSS, and better classes (Ultimately I’d want these to be shareable, and in discreet chunks, so normals can make use of it)

I’m hoping to do these relatively quickly in a non-perfectionistic process. And then we can move onto some fun features like search nodes. Maybe we’ll even finish dates. Or add a big picture of my face to the background of everyone’s Workflowy accounts. You do realize that’s 90% going to happen, right? I’m going to do it right in the middle of your next big meeting.

The use cases for color

Let me address the question “Why add color? What are the use cases?” I have two use cases in mind, based on prior conversations with users:

  1. Add visual meaning to enable scanning, vs reading. You could say, “Make important things pop” but I think there is more than that. I think visual distinctions between types of things is powerful. It lets you do things like visually scan for stuff relevant to the home vs. at the office, and scan a list to see what’s appropriate right now.
  2. Interior decorating. People both want to make Workflowy feel like home, and to make particular parts of it feel appropriate to their uses. This is more like theming for specific spaces, but think about things like Notion’s emojis and header images. It also includes overall styling of the workspace.

I’m more focused on the first use case at the moment, though custom CSS is useful for both.

Alrighty, that’s it for now. Please let me know if you think this is dumb. Or not dumb. Or if I’m missing something important. Or if you think my whole life is folly. Or if you need my address because you want to mail me some ice cream.

Also: I like to draw, but don’t have time or reason to normally do it. So I’ve decided to add 1 minutes sketches like the one above to some posts.

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dareman
dareman
28 days ago

I hope you can add this to the scope: code formatting of specific segments of text.

Awesome update, love where you’re going with this. Not dumb at all.

JUN SEOP LEE
JUN SEOP LEE
28 days ago

I love your drawing!

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[…] Update: Thanks for all the feedback! Just wrote a post about how we’re updating our plans/thoughts based on your comments. […]

Carlos Rebolledo Aguirre
Carlos Rebolledo Aguirre
28 days ago

No veo ni leo nada tonto. Dar curso a Colores es del todo natural y lógico, sin que ello implique afectar la simplicidad de Workflowy, la cual, gracias a su flexibilidad permite hacer del uso de Colores sin afectar la esencia de lo simple.

En efecto, el color no altera en nada el uso que cada uno de nosotros realiza con Workflowy, porque parte de su esencia está en que podemos utilizarlo de muchas formas, más simple, menos simple, complejo, entretenido o aburrido, etc., por lo tanto, con color solamente tendremos más flexibilidad para su uso (más visual, menos visual, etc.), pero en caso alguno se afectará la simplicidad y menos su flexibilidad.

Bienvenido sea el color a los tags, texto, fondo, encabezados y en forma nativa.

Y muchas gracias a Jesse y equipo por su trabajo y compartir las reflexiones con los usuarios.

Un abrazo

Cameron Flint
Cameron Flint
28 days ago

It makes sense to me! Sounds utilitarian and functional, both.

Rodney M Daut
28 days ago

I vote for finishing dates next

Coiso da Silva
Coiso da Silva
24 days ago
Reply to  Rodney M Daut

What’s exactly there to be finished? Any kind of polishing?

Wilhelm Medetz
Wilhelm Medetz
28 days ago

My main use for colored tags would be to visually differentiate different ‘types’ of items (projects/goals/actions/reference matierial, …) and maybe even priorities (the second case would require different styles of tag coloring like tag background color for item types and colored bar at the line end for priorites).

Mikula Beutl
Mikula Beutl
28 days ago

I mean, you could start off with just offering highlighting in itself (yellow) and see how much people use it, if it’s used A LOT, like say 30% of users use the highlighting feature. That could be the first step

https://www.w3schools.com/tags/tryit.asp?filename=tryhtml5_mark

Adrian
Adrian
28 days ago

If „tag colors“ means this is the process to color the bullet/node itself, this could work. But if only the tag is colored the use case of scanning/reading wouldn‘t be addressed for me, unfortunately.

Anton
Anton
28 days ago

Yeah, colors can help choose right idea for big work. Now i use workflowy for my D&D campaign and to more easy choosing for right way with a story it will be cool to use highlighting

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[…] I outlined our updated priorities for colors in Workflowy, but something has been bothering me about it. Those priorities have two separate branches: first, […]

Koush
Koush
27 days ago

Jesse, please don’t be confused. CSS idea is wonderful. See, so many people has been asking this from you, since quite long, check this – https://workflowy.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/360000100166-Color-Formatting…. Please, such a long awaited feature, kindly give it now. Too much waiting!

When you say people calling it a dumb idea, I don’t think so.. because, the consensus is coming from a very small set of people that doesn’t represent the entire population using Workflowly, who must be waiting to see this feature. Especially the highlighting and changing of text with different colors.

Gilles
Gilles
27 days ago

Hi! Didn’t have the time to answer the first blog post, but I am glad to see that what you listed in priorities totally fit my use cases and needs. I use Frank’s css magic to manage tag colors, but since this is limited to my desktop browser, I don’t use the app much (and css trick are hard to manage for an almost normal like me). I stopped using other color tags for bullets/lines etc. Because it was not very practical and using it means I had to remove these tags when sending meeting notes by mail.

Colors are a way for me to make things pop so people will identify their #actions or @names or a few other tags quickly since (let’s face it) they don’t really pay attention to meeting notes.

Of course, when I export from Workflowy to an email, I have to re-color a few tags with search & replace… having the possibility to export the colored/highlighted text from Workflowy and just paste it in my email would be dope !

Thanks !

And then international dates yay !

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[…] to release for early feedback in the next week or so (don’t hold me to that). As mentioned in this article summarizing a plan based on your initial feedback our first prototype is focused on three […]

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[…] to release for early feedback in the next week or so (don’t hold me to that). As mentioned in this article summarizing a plan based on your initial feedback our first prototype is focused on three […]

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