Case Study

Case Study: Project Management System Notifications


The Project Management Tracking System Lead contacted me to assist with redesigning their system-generated emails. The tracking system is used to submit and approve projects that require multiple resources across several different functional groups.

The users receive many different emails as the project moves through the approval process. These are simple table based emails that are compatible with Microsoft Outlook, the required email client for the company.


The System Support Team was becoming overwhelmed as users preferred to contact support rather than work through issues on their own. The number one reason users cited for this was the system emails were confusing and unhelpful.

The ideal end result was to reduce the amount of trouble tickets by enabling users to complete tasks on their own.

While the Lead envisioned a facelift would be sufficient, after reviewing several example emails from throughout the workflow, I realized some more in-depth user analysis would be required.

Existing Notification

The Lead and support team consolidated feedback from users and the main issues were:

  • Users don’t know who should take action on a task
  • Emails are getting lost in user’s inbox
  • Too many similar looking emails
  • Have to open each email to see if it is relevant
  • User unsure of action to take
  • User doesn’t know where to go to take action
  • Actions are overdue or not completed


User Personas

I requested a workflow map and the examples of all the emails that were sent out at each branch and began to organize and categorize the emails. Overall, there were three categories of emails, Action Required, Progress Updates, and Courtesy Copies.

From this I developed two user personas:

The Manager is responsible for several different projects throughout the project approval process. They may need to intervene if a project gets stuck or rejected in the workflow, but generally are just monitoring projects at a high level. They get many different emails throughout the day. They are in the system frequently, running reports and viewing information on their dashboard.
The Expert is responsible for only one aspect of the project workflow. They will be notified when they have to meet with the Project Team to acquire a resource or assist in planning. They may not be as familiar with the system, and may not work on each project. Once their task is completed they aren’t involved with the project until there is concrete work to do.
Thought Process

I worked within these categories and with these users in mind as I drew sketches on paper and brainstormed. A Manager uses email filters and keywords when they are tracking a project. An Expert wants to see relevant information and go directly to their task in the system. The System can only send out one type of email at each decision point, but has the ability to add dynamic content from the System.

With these considerations in mind I began to write static content that would be as generic as possible for re-use while developing strategies for using dynamic content to populate sections with information relevant to the task. I had the project Lead consult with users to understand what information was needed for them to have at a glance in the email, and what was superfluous.

After three rounds of revisions each email in the workflow was re-written based upon user feedback, and each item was designed to help mitigate specific issues noted in user feedback.

  • Move assigned person to the To field and all others to the CC field.
  • Focus on clear, concise, and unique subject lines
  • Reorganize content into more logical groupings
  • Enable hyperlinks for specific fields
  • Have a dynamic salutation
  • Email content rewritten to be more clear
  • Clearly stated required action
  • Large button with descriptive text that takes users directly to relevant system page
  • Include due dates from the system
Updated Notification


Within a few weeks the amount of support tickets began to decrease as desired with very little time investment from the support team. The Team is optimistic about the results going forward as the new emails begin to roll out to new groups. Because of our meetings and with clear examples they feel confident they can create and modify emails on their own.


  • Leverage dynamic content to help personalize or add relevant details to communications
  • Customize subject lines for scanning and include keywords
  • Insert specific links to system forms whenever appropriate
  • Be clear about the purpose of an email
  • Be clear about the actions required
  • Use simple language and short sentences to describe objectives.