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Create global tags that span across your workspace

Illustrated conceptual diagram of workspace tags.
20 August 2019
Benjamin HumphreyBradley AyersChris Manouvrier
Lisa Nguyen

Research is often conducted in projects. Sometimes these are isolated; other times they contribute to a larger context or shared knowledge base.

Dovetail takes a project-centric approach to organizing data. This enables teams to work autonomously and maintain tag sets that are highly contextual to the work they’re doing, while avoiding the chaos of making everything ‘global’ and therefore often irrelevant.

With workspace tags, researchers now have the best of both worlds. You can continue using your highly contextual project-centric tags, while also leveraging a separate set of ‘global’ tags that allow you to contribute to a shared knowledge base.

Workspace tags also help the team standardize sets of tags for other teams to use in their projects. Use cases include:

  • Building up a data set to create a standard set of personas.

  • Tracking pain points at the ‘platform’ level across products.

  • Contributing quotes to product feature requests.

How workspace tags work

By default, tags in Dovetail live in a specific project and can’t be shared across projects. This keeps things simple for most people. The architecture looks like this:

Three projects with no workspace tags.
Three projects with no workspace tags.

Workspace tags enable you to elevate common tags out of a project so you can reuse them across projects. In the example above, we may want to pull Personas out to workspace tags so we can re-use the personas tags across projects:

Three projects and workspace tags.
Three projects and workspace tags.

When you create workspace tags, it’s only linked to your original project. You’ll need to link it to additional projects:

Projects with workspace tags linked to all three projects.
Projects with workspace tags linked to all three projects.

Inside a project, nothing changes – workspace tags are seamlessly integrated with existing tags inside a project. You can create highlights like normal, choosing tags without too much thought.

Workspace tags are ‘live’ – changes you make to these tags will immediately be reflected in all linked projects. In this sense, workspace tags in Dovetail are similar to Masters in Keynote, Symbols and Libraries in Sketch, and Components in Figma.

Workspace tag walkthrough

Let’s use the personas example above. First, we’ll create workspace tags for personas. Just like projects, workspace tags can have an icon and a readme.

The readme for workspace tags.
The readme for workspace tags.

Next, we’ll create a few tags in the personas tag board that represent our personas. These tags will span across projects. They’re all orange here, but you can change the color and organize them in whatever way you like.

A workspace tag board.
A workspace tag board.

Not all workspace tags will be relevant to all projects in the workspace. We need to create a link between our personas tag board and the projects we wish to use personas in. Linking it to a project is as simple as clicking a checkbox and a button.

A confirmation dialog about linking workspace tags to a project.
A confirmation dialog about linking workspace tags to a project.

Once linked, the workspace tags are visible, and usable, inside the linked project. Note the sidebar shows we’re inside the ‘App usability tests’ project.

As we’re tagging data in the project, we can choose the relevant tag – whether it’s a project tag or workspace tag doesn’t really matter. We can also create tags inside the workspace tag at this point too, assuming we have the correct permission.

Usability testing notes with tags applied, including an workspace tags.
Usability testing notes with tags applied, including an workspace tags.

When you open workspace tags while inside a project, Dovetail adds a default filter that limits the highlights to only the ones in that project, preserving the context of the sidebar.

A dialog showing workspace tags with a filter applied to the highlights.
A dialog showing workspace tags with a filter applied to the highlights.

However, you can remove the filter, or open the tag as a page, to see all highlights on that tag, across all linked projects.

Workspace tags with no filter applied.
Workspace tags with no filter applied.

Behind the scenes

Adding support for ‘global tags’ has been a tricky undertaking – both from a technical point of view, but also from a product design point of view.

We made a lot of assumptions about project-centricity in our codebase, which meant that tags were never meant to work across projects. This simplified things for us and made features like access control a lot easier, but we heard from customers that cross-project tags was an important missing feature. As we started working on ‘global tags’, we explored many different models for how we could solve this problem for customers.

A key consideration for us is how we balance simplicity, power, and scalability. Dovetail needs to be intuitive to new users yet feel powerful once you get to know it. We want Dovetail to work well for teams of five and teams of 500, so it has to start out basic, but not break down when you get to hundreds of users and projects, and thousands of tags.

Truly ‘global tags’ or ‘cross-project tags’, where you can pick from any tag in any project at any time, results in a mess for large organizations. While some tags are common and should be shared across projects, many tags are specific to a particular project, and we didn’t want all users to have to search through hundreds of irrelevant tags from other projects, teams, and departments every time they make a highlight in Dovetail.

In the future, we’ll release custom fields and note / insight templates, and workspace tags will help our customers standardize these features across projects, alongside tags.

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