CrashPlan Email Report Redesign

Table Of Contents

Overview     Research     Flows & Mockups     Deliverables     Outcomes


Code42 Software makes a product called CrashPlan, which helps people back up their files to an offsite location. A user receives emails that provide the status of their backups or alerts them if a backup has not updated recently. Customers state that the current emails are difficult to read and do not clearly state if action is required, which increases Support's ticket volume.


  • Forbidden to user test with customers prior to launch; tests can be conducted with Code42 employees.
  • Platform requires one template for consumer, SMB, and Enterprise customers.
  • Deliverables must be ready within two weeks with less than 15 hours a week designated.
  • Product Management requires several alternate designs that demonstrate changed or new features as they're released.


  • Bring look and feel in line with CrashPlan's new design language
  • Discover the root causes for the increased ticket volume and conceptualize solutions
  • Conceptualize visualizations for storage quotas
  • Conceptualize options for self-help or contacting Support
  • Work with the Documentation team to create learning resources for reports and troubleshooting

Project Process

Using Lean UX principles, I was able to maximize my time and resources. I built a library of design assets so I could move dynamically between user flows, rapid prototyping, and testing. Every major iteration would go through two rounds of feedback from peers and then prototyped for testing.

Tools Used

Illustrator, Photoshop, Axure, pen & paper, whiteboard


There were 700 support tickets filed between January 2015 and January 2016 in response to status emails. I used card sorting methodology to sort them into buckets by issue.

Notable Quotes

“My Backup Status Report says my backup was last completed "3.4 months" ago????”
“Under the last completed column shows 1.4 years. Does that mean it has been 1.4 years since a backup was completed?”
“Your last backup status report sent by email showed a completion of 99,9% [...] Now all of a sudden your report tells me a total completion of about 5%????[...] Did your backup storage really loose about 94% of my backed up data?”

Key Issues

  • All users wrote in just wanting to know if they needed to fix something.
  • Fluctuating statistics between reports caused considerable panic. The interpretation that backups started over when they hadn't was creating distrust in the product.
  • Vocabulary used ("Last Completed," "Last Activity") had too many interpretations and left users feeling stranded.
  • The report was not designed responsively. On mobile devices, users had to zoom and scroll.
  • A significant number of users went to Google search to figure out how to read the reports.
  • The Support link did not take users to our articles on troubleshooting or reading reports.

Heuristic Evaluation

There are a couple very important pieces to email reports 

  • "Last Completed" is the last time a backup hit 100%. "Last Activity" is the last time any data was sent to a backup. These are interpreted interchangeably by customers, causing undue panic, confusion, and distrust in the product.
  • Reported statistics are generated based on what the software is working on in that moment. If the backup is already 100% complete, but CrashPlan is 80% through its current differential backup, the report will show 80%.

Persona Creation

From the collective research I put together for Code42's consumer business, I utilized three personas:

  • Jo, grandmother, doesn't user her computer much but loves her mobile device especially for showing photos.
  • Dave, the resident techie and parent, needs kids' data separate from parent data.
  • Karen, frequent traveler, seldom ever home, needs to make account and computer changes on the go.

Fun Fact: Grandma Jo became a mainstay persona for me - not just for design, but for providing support, internal training, documentation, and fostering understanding between the company and the customer. Grandma Jo rocks.

User Flows & Mockups

I mocked up an account-wide storage usage indicator that went through several evolutions. It would allow users and administrators to keep track of the amount of storage being used on the account if a quota was enabled. It started as a progress wheel, but the feedback from user testing showed that the wheel was not offering enough detail to show individual computer usage. The final design was heavily influenced by Apple's method of displaying storage usage in one color-coded progress bar.

A Different Kind of User Testing

Using a custom library of assets from Code42's software style guide to quickly produce high fidelity mockups, I instructed testers experienced with CrashPlan to examine my mockup on one side of the screen, think out loud as they move through, and then in Illustrator on the right side of the screen, drag-and-drop assets to assemble an email report that better addressed their needs. This enabled testers to visualize their ideas or issues instead of relying on spoken language alone.

Fun fact: I did not keep track of these files after the project wrapped up (d'oh), but they were an invaluable insight. This method was received positively from all testers and fostered a better understanding for the design process.


The Product Management team and I went through 37 design variations before we found a design that met both customer and company requirements.

After wrapping up the design work, I partnered with Documentation to finalize verbiage and make requirements on new guides to introduce customers to the new look.

The final report included:

  • Built-in links to brand new documentation
  • "Click to troubleshoot" links under backups that needed attention
  • A color-coded cloud storage meter, with simplified text for email clients that are not HTML compatible
  • Iconography compliant with CrashPlan's software design language, including a new icon for "disconnected" 
  • A simple, responsive design that scaled elegantly for smartphones and tablets
  • Status messages under each device name written in clear layman's terms
  • Links to education and settings documentation


The progression of designs, demonstrating how my research informed my decisions, and challenging everyone not to settle for a design that just created different problems garnered tremendous respect from several teams across the company. This project was one a driving force for receiving Code42's Knight in Shining Armor Award, for never losing sight of and always giving a voice to the customer. It has been handed off to Engineering to be implemented in the consumer/small business products, with the Enterprise release to-be-determined.