Creating a Portal Style Landing Page

One thing that can quickly happen to any environment is Report Sprawl, which is where many variations of similar reports can clog up folders and make it hard for a user to find exactly what they need.  To a certain degree, the Search functionality can assist this, but that’s largely hoping that the user both knows what term to search for, and that the developer has used enough appropriate keywords in both the report name and report description (and we all fill out the report description, right? … right?)

There’s a fine balance between overcomplicating a report with more prompts and columns to serve multiple needs, and just making a 2nd copy of the report with some slight differences.  While both may be needed, one is going to be more common, or considered the standard view, but it becomes cluttered to have more than one or overly complex to see 12 prompts on a report when you really only need two.  While neither of these scenarios are usually harmful to a power user or to the user requesting the content, they can put off new users or casual users who find your MicroStrategy platform difficult to use and navigate.

Today I’d like to share an idea my group came up with to both attempt to solve this problem and make MicroStrategy a prettier experience.

Why is this necessary?
Once again, the goal here is to bubble up common or important reports to the top and make them readily accessible, while not burying niche reports to be hard to find.  Have you ever noticed when your favorite website releases a redesign, there’s always an initial uproar?  The biggest reason for that is that users get accustomed to where to click to perform actions.  They become habit and 2nd nature on where to go and how to navigate.  Now imagine navigating folders in an expanding MicroStrategy environment where folders are appearing and moving and reports hop around the screen as new ones show up.  One of the primary ideas of this Landing Page is to lock down popular report links to a static place on the screen.  This provides users with a single place to go to each time, and rolling out new reports won’t cause it to get bumped around.

In my environments, I like to organize my reports by Departmental Folders.  So, I’ll have folders for Sales, Marketing, Finance, etc.  I don’t necessarily put security on them, but the idea is to group reports together so that each job function can easily find the reports they’re looking for.  And in the event a single report belongs in two places, I employ a Shortcut.  I’m sure this is a common approach to report organization.

So after a login, a user must know which subject area their report lives in, which sometimes can be ambiguous.  They also have to then pick out the name of a common report from a list of more than likely similar names, or decode it themselves from the list if they aren’t immediately familiar with the report they’re looking for.

For example, if they want a report on “Delivery Times”, and there are 5 reports with “Delivery” in the title, which one is the “common” Delivery report that they should start with?

The Landing Page
Our idea for the landing page was to model it after a portal.  We’d create a grid of boxes, one for each department, and then statically link to the top 5 or so reports that we chose (with help from the group).  We’d still provide a link to “More Reports” which goes to the underlying folder for that department.

The response was fantastic.  For power users, they either had 1-click access to their common reports, or at worst, they didn’t sacrifice any mouse clicks.  They still logged in and clicked a single link to get to their report folder.  For casual users, they found the system usable again since we cherry-picked the top reports of interest and put them at their fingertips.  We also got great marks for stylizing up the login process, at least a little bit.

How It’s Built

  1. Create a new Document with no Data Sets, and design it the way you’d like.
  2. Create the links by right clicking on a Report/Document in Web (before you run it), choosing Properties, and then copying the link at the bottom.  For Folder links, do the same. 
  3. Save it, and then Run it
  4. Login to Web as an Administrator and go to Preferences (top of the screen) and then choose Project Defaults on the left.  There’s now an option at the top to set a Starting Page, and one of the options will be the last run Document, your Landing Page.
  5. Now, any user who logs in will default to the Landing Page which will open instantly since it doesn’t have any data behind it.  If individual users choose to revert to the old ways, they can override this setting in their own personal Preferences.

Note: When you copy and paste the report/folder links, they’ll be static links to the Web Server, IServer and Project.  Since this will only ever be accessed from the Web (and not exported), we can trim those links to make them dynamic so that if you migrate this to other projects or servers, the links won’t break.

Example, if this is the URL that was copied for a Report:

http://WEBSERVER/Microstrategy/asp/Main.aspx?Server=ISERVER&Project=PROJECT&Port=0&evt=4001&src=Main.aspx.4001&visMode=0&reportID=81EF94844E8CBF16DA402BA1C415F507&reportViewMode=1

You can strip out all of the parts in red and the link will still function and be more flexible.

UPDATE: Check out Part 2: Adding Dynamic User Report Links

You may also like...