Our 10 Favorite Help Desk User Interfaces (UIs)June 19, 2014 by Jay Ivey
When it comes to customer service and support (CSS), response time is critical. According to Sam Boonin, Zendesk’s vice president of products, a quick response has a big impact on customer satisfaction levels.
Data collected from over 20,000 Zendesk users and survey respondents in 2012 supports this claim: companies with an average first-response time of under 10 hours had customer satisfaction ratings of over 90 percent.
Help desk software with a well-designed user interface (UI) can help reduce first-response time by enabling customer service reps to quickly resolve support tickets and allowing managers to view key metrics that drive more informed decisions.
A poorly designed UI, on the other hand, can slow down even the savviest support rep. Seconds spent clicking through nested folders or struggling to set up custom fields add up to lost hours, which increases response time and reduces customer satisfaction.
There are many help desk solutions on the market today, each with their own unique UIs. To help you better understand the options available, we evaluated dozens of UIs and selected our ten favorites.
Desk.com by Salesforce
With its newly updated Business Insights reporting engine, Desk.com, salesforce.com’s all-in-one customer support app, now offers one of the most legible, attractive help desk reporting and analytics experiences available. When you open the application, other UI elements (such as the sidebar) automatically get out of your way, creating more space to display important data.
The Overview Report window offers a quick way to understand both how many support tickets are coming in, and where they’re coming from. To display or hide the number of tickets from specific channels, such as email, phone, Facebook or Twitter, users simply click the corresponding buttons above the line graph, thus quickly reducing or increasing the complexity of the report.
All of Desk.com’s bright bar and line charts stand out against the dark background, and the distinct color palettes make it easy to compare metrics at a glance. In the screen below, for example, you can see that the number of email interactions (green) constitutes the vast majority of total interactions (purple).
Hovering your cursor over a datapoint brings up more detailed information, such as the exact number of support interactions that occurred on a given date. And in just a few clicks, you can filter any report by specific criteria, such as which macros (also known as canned responses) were applied to a ticket.
Of all the products on this list, Kayako displays the largest number of navigational links at the top of the screen, yet manages to do so without appearing cluttered. Different colors denote the priority level of tickets, and the “Reply Due” column lets agents know when they must submit their response by.
Although it may take users longer to adjust to the system compared to more pared down products, the detailed sidebar—combined with the two-tiered navigation bar at the top—allows agents to quickly navigate a wealth of stored information.
The tiered waterfall layout of the “Quick Filter” navigation panel, for example, borrows from Windows’ file system organization, making it easy for longtime PC users to learn.
UserVoice’s new dashboard, updated in April, does a great job of using page layout and text design to create an intuitive reporting experience that conveys multiple insights at a glance. Key metrics, such as the total number of open tickets and the overall user satisfaction score, are displayed in a large, clean red font that immediately draws the eye.
Each key statistic is separated into its own box with more detailed information provided in smaller text below, making it easy to scan between them. An arrow in the bottom-right corner of each box makes it clear to users that additional information can be obtained by clicking on it.
Likewise, data visualizations are attractive and simple to understand. In the line graph above, for example, the total number of customers that interacted with UserVoice through specific channels, such as the web portal or an embedded widget, are represented by dashed lines. These lines can be easily compared with the total number of users, represented by a solid blue line.
From its reporting application to its ticket queue to its individual tickets (like the one pictured below), Zendesk makes optimum use of its UI real estate by confining the navigation to a single, clean sidebar with muted gray iconography that’s clear and simple.
Tabs at the top make it easy to add new tickets and switch between them, and open tickets are viewed on the right side of the screen, preventing the conversation window from feeling too cluttered.
This leaves a significant amount of room on the left for dedicated input fields that categorize tickets by query type, priority and custom tags, allowing CSS reps to add this valuable information as the ticket is open in front of them.
And while the button to apply a macro to a ticket is small and unobtrusive, its central location on the screen just below the conversation panel (and the small arrow pointing up toward the conversation) intuitively guides the eye to this commonly used feature.
Groove may be a simplified help desk solution tailored for small businesses, but in many respects, its UI is just as attractive and smartly crafted as any enterprise-focused product. It sports a clean, flat design with a narrow range of colors and plenty of whitespace for readability, all of which helps users navigate information-dense screens like the ticket queue quickly and efficiently.
On the far left, a simple navigation bar makes it easy to navigate between active tickets, new tickets, recently updated tickets, and so forth. A “Recent Activity” panel on the right, meanwhile, makes it easy to view the activity of other team members, e.g. if they take over a certain ticket.
Profile pictures accompany each ticket in the queue to give users a face, while the color-coded tags to the right of each user’s name convey key information, such as the topic of the query or the CSS rep assigned to the ticket.
HappyFox and Helpdesk Pilot
HappyFox (and its on-premise counterpart, Helpdesk Pilot, which has a very similar interface) manages to present agents with a clean, easy-to-understand ticket queue while displaying plenty of helpful information about each individual ticket.
Agents can quickly scan the queue to see what type of issues customers are experiencing, and which are commonly recurring. Colored bars denote the status of each ticket (e.g. “Open, “On Hold”), allowing agents to make informed decisions about whether to answer them immediately, return to them later or assign them to another agent.
Each ticket includes clearly visible information about when it was last updated and when a response is due so users can ensure all issues are being addressed promptly. In addition, Tickets in the list are separated into visually distinct bubbles, which prevents all of this detailed information from running together when agents are scanning through the queue.
There’s a lot to like about Freshdesk’s UI—from its narrow, tabular navigation bar to its neutral teal-centric color pallet, which is easy on the eyes. But one aspect that really stands out is their administrative page, which is usually one of the the most dense, cluttered and unattractive areas of a software system.
Rather than cram backend functions (e.g. editing agent information or tweaking ticket fields) into a confusing sidebar of nested folders, Freshdesk uses a set of distinct graphic icons and brand logos to visually communicate each function.
In addition, administrative options are organized into sensible categories with varying colors to distinguish them. For instance, options related to core help desk functionality are arranged at the top in blue, while options related to the management of customer self-service functionality are in purple at the bottom.
SupportBee’s UI is a reflection of the company’s overall philosophy: to create a simple, highly accessible help desk solution designed specifically for startups in order to encourage all employees to get involved in customer support.
Accordingly, the product features a minimalistic, no-frills UI that requires almost no training to jump right in and start answering tickets. The support queue, which closely resembles popular email clients such as Gmail, includes bolded subject lines, brightly colored custom labels, selection boxes and the option to mark priority tickets with a star.
This simple design philosophy extends to SupportBee’s generous use of whitespace, which makes both the ticket queue and the left navigation panel easy to view and click through.
SmarterTrack by SmarterTools
SmarterTrack, SmarterTools’ help desk solution, uses illustrative icons on the left sidebar to eliminate the need for superfluous text and keep the interface uncluttered.
Plus sign icons next to each bucket in the navigation bar reveal additional categories to provide users with all the information they need at their fingertips. Clicking on the icon next to “Tickets,” for example, reveals subcategories such as “Ticket Overview,” “New Ticket Sources” and “Re-opened Ticket Sources.”
Meanwhile, the system’s reports feature provides the ability to view ticket status reports for custom date ranges in the form of colorful, easy-to-understand bar charts. These reports allow agents to view the total number of open and closed tickets, as well as a breakdown of ticket statuses by department.
In addition to the unobtrusive bar at the very top, Deskero features one of our favorite sidebar navigation panels. Small red notification buttons appear next to certain ticket buckets, such as “Priority tickets” and “Pending tickets,” keeping agents alerted to what’s going on in the overall queue while they’re in the process of answering a ticket.
The use of gray color scale helps distinguish between different areas of the interface, both on the sidebar pane and in the ticket conversation window. For example, selecting the “Tickets” bucket link turns it dark gray, while the sublinks that appear (such as “priority tickets” and “email tickets”), are highlighted in a lighter shade of gray.
We also like how Deskero includes certain functionality directly within the navigation window to save valuable screen space and reduce the number of clicks it takes to perform a specific action. For example, under the list of sublinks that appears under the “Tickets” bucket, you’ll find an option to add a new ticket.
This gallery represents our favorite help desk UIs, but we’re always looking to include new interfaces, market entrants or redesigns—so please feel free to send us your best submissions.