Onboarding Improvements at Permanent.org

Cecilia Krum

April 12, 2022
Collaboration across platforms made easier at Permanent.org

As of this month, when a new member joins Permanent, they are prompted to create their first archive or join an archive that they were invited to collaborate on by an existing member.

Permanent has always been organized around the concept of archives, which in our case is a collection of curated digital artifacts. 

Before this change, when someone signed up for Permanent, we created an archive for them automatically. It was always a personal archive and always given the name of the person who created the account. This was easy, of course, but it led to some problems! If I, Cecilia Krum, created a Minneapolis Cross-Country Skiing Archive and invited Natalie Martin (our front-end developer) to collaborate on it, then Natalie would have to join Permanent to accept that invitation. When Natalie signed up for Permanent, she’d be navigated into the automatically created Natalie Martin Archive. This was confusing! Natalie might have started uploading her Cross-Country Skiing content there, not realizing that she needed to do something special – in this case, switch archives – in order to put her photos in the official Minneapolis Cross-Country Skiing Archive.

We decided that we wanted to make it easier to collaborate on Permanent. One way to do that was to make it more obvious that any work a member does on Permanent takes place in an archive. We also wanted to ensure that our members could easily recognize whether they’re working in their personal archive or in a collaborative archive at any given point.

Once we knew that was our goal, we started with design work. The Experience Team, along with our User Experience Designer, Nathalie Rayter, brainstormed two ways for new members to get started with their first archive. The first path allowed new members to create their first archive on their own by choosing the type of archive and naming their archive.

The second path allowed new members to view and accept an invitation from another Permanent member to collaborate on an archive. After refining these designs, Nathalie and Kaitlyn Jarnagin, our Member Success Manager, met with new users of Permanent and listened as they talked through their user experience of the prototypes of the new designs. We used the feedback we gathered from these new users to create the final designs.

After we had a clear understanding of the problem and a working design, we made necessary changes to the website and to our API, which creates accounts and archives. I changed the code in Permanent’s API so that it could create an account with no archive. We had never had such a concept before, and many different parts of the system had to be adjusted to account for the fact that a member might be able to log in without having any archive yet. Natalie Martin built the beautiful onboarding process that members now experience when they’re signing up and changed the way the website works so that a member with an account, but no archive, is automatically sent to a page where they have the option to create their first archive or accept an invitation to collaborate on an existing archive created by someone else.

To collaborate on Permanent using this new onboarding process, go to “Archive Members,” visible in the menu under your archive profile picture on the left side of the page when you’re in your private workspace. Click “Add Member,” and invite someone to join your archive by typing in their email address and sending them an invitation when asked. When they sign up for Permanent, they’ll have the option to join your existing archive right away, without being taken into their own auto-created archive. Of course they’ll still be able to create their own personal archive, too!

Let us know what you think of this new onboarding process, and share any other ideas you have about how it could be easier to collaborate on Permanent in the comments or by emailing support@permanent.org.