Modernizing FogBugz

Fog Creek Software

For over 4 years, I led product design for FogBugz, a suite of project management tools specifically designed for software teams.

When I joined Fog Creek in 2014, FogBugz was already a well-established player in the project management landscape. Created in 2001, it popularized bug tracking and project management for software teams. It had a very loyal customer base, partly because it incorporated many of the best practices in software development preached by its creator, Joel Spolsky.

Revitalize an aging product

My mission was to revitalize an aging product that, at the time, had been around for almost 15 years. Its age was starting to show and current and potential customers were looking elsewhere for a more modern solution. We set out to modernize its UI and introduce new features with the goal of reducing churn and increasing trials.

Below you can see a couple of screenshots of the FogBugz UI around the time I joined (circa 2014):

We took small and gradual steps in order to carefully and thoughtfully iterate over the UI and visual language. Below you can see the same two views from above, circa 2015:

And here's the end result of its evolution during the 4 years I was lead designer. These screenshots also include the result of a rebranding effort we worked on towards the end of 2018:

Trust the process

Every new feature or project we took on started with a functional specification. Writing down and outlining what you're going to build and why you're going to do it is incredibly important. Not only is this a great way of sharing your plans with your team, it's also an exceptional vehicle for getting feedback early on in the design process.

In addition, we relied on weekly design reviews, prototyping and continuous user testing to gather valuable insights that guided our efforts in order to provide more value to our customers and confirme we were on the right track.

One particular aspect I really enjoyed about this process was the creation of a Customer Advisory Board, which was a diverse group of FogBugz customers who we regularly reached out to test prototypes and review iterations. We learned a lot from these interactions and it allowed us to iterate smarter.

Mobile first

While this is now standard, back then one important element of the modernization efforts was to make the UI responsive. We did so by following a mobile first approach that encompassed everything from conceptual mockups to HTML prototypes, as seen below:

Fogbugz → Manuscript

Towards the end of my time at Fog Creek we took on the challenge of rebranding FogBugz. This effort included a new visual language and brand that you can view here.