We’re redesigning our dashboard, and we’d like your feedback


Understanding your time should easy and enjoyable. The two main ways people interact with RescueTime today are through the weekly summary emails and the dashboard. We recently put in a lot of work on improving the overall design and experience with our weekly emails, and now we’re turning our attention to the dashboard. The current dashboard is ok. It gives a decent overview of how you’re spending your time across several dimensions, and it’s certainly served us well for quite a while.

But we feel like it could be so much more. So, we’re thinking through some ways we could improve it, and we’d like your feedback.

Here are a few of the specific things we’d like to address:

Today the dashboard gives you a lot of facts – We’d like it to tell a story

The dashboard is pretty good at giving you a lot of trivia about yourself, but it falls down when it comes to providing context around those data points. We’d like to include more ways to highlight interesting changes, answer questions, and do a better job of pointing out interesting insights.

It doesn’t mobilize well

The overall presentation doesn’t lend itself to a small screen. We’re investigating some responsive design options that will allow the information to be more accessible across a range of screen sizes. Also, those Flash graphs that drive pretty much 90% of the content on the dashboard aren’t going to work on many mobile devices, so we’ll need to address that as well.

It isn’t a very satisfying experience for brand new users

One of the most troubling points of the overall user experience is the moment when someone first signs up, but hasn’t logged much time yet. We want the dashboard to do a better job of leading new users into the app and educating them about how to get the most from RescueTime.

It just feels a bit dated

The whole UI is in need of a dust-off. We want to give it a refresh and make the whole thing feel a bit more contemporary. Your data is telling you a pretty interesting story, and it deserves a beautiful presentation.

Some of the piles of concept sketches we’ve been doing

So, we’re exploring several new ways we could present your data to you. We’re not rushing it, and we want to be careful, as it’s the page on our site that you are likely to interact with the most. To make sure we cover all the right bases, we’d love to get some feedback from you during this process. We’d love it if you could answer some of the following questions in the comments:

  1. When you go to RescueTime.com, what’s the main thing you’re hoping to learn?
  2. Is there anything you find yourself digging for that you wish you didn’t have to?
  3. Are there things on the current dashboard that you find yourself just not caring about? If so, what are they?
  4. Do you have any other thoughts that you think might be helpful to us as we think through this process?

Thanks for your feedback! We plan on keeping everyone in the loop as we work through it.

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Robby Macdonell

CEO at RescueTime


  1. Recently started using RescueTime in the last 3 months and think there is a lot of potential for this type of application / service. As a new user, let me just run through how I use the app. I am a software developer for a startup company, and have started using RescueTime to “gamify” my work. I’m essentially using the RescueTime data as a scoreboard for how productive I am for a given day / week. At first, I only found the weekly emails useful, but didn’t feel that was an appropriately sized feedback loop. If I get a report on Monday telling my I worked for 60 hours last week and maintained a productivity of ~90% that’s not extremely helpful if I didn’t accomplish my goals for the week. I didn’t feel like I was learning anything about my time. Instead, I now have the dashboard open at all times, but I leave it on the current day’s dashboard and periodically check my productivity (I actually have this on another monitor so I’m not wasting time checking, haha). This allows me to have a dozen or so touch points throughout the day, monitoring how productive I am being. I’m essentially watching my work unravel, monitoring how the productivity-by-hour graph unfolds, and trying to mold it into a dark-blue plateau for maximum productivity.

    Starting in the next week or so, I’m going to be dividing my workday into blocks of time. I’ll “set up” a work session by blocking out a certain number of hours to accomplish a set of tasks. I’ll then measure how effective and productive I was during that work session. The general attitude I’m taking with my work is to increase the frequency of feedback, so that I can then adapt and be more productive.

    When you go to RescueTime.com, what’s the main thing you’re hoping to learn?
    I’m looking to gain insights on how productive I am being, how much time I have worked for the day, and what my day/week looked like- in terms of when I was working and how productive I was. By far the most useful areas of the dashboard are the main panel (the summary view?), and the activity summary. The only other piece of information I gain insights from is which activities are the most distracting. My dashboard view currently has the following views displayed on the main view:
    1. Productivity by Day 2. Efficiency Summay
    3. Efficiency by Day 4. All Activities by Day
    5. All Goals by Day 6. All Projects by Day

    Is there anything you find yourself digging for that you wish you didn’t have to?
    The only feature I find myself digging for is correcting how an activity is measured, but that is relatively easy to find. I probably spend more time “digging” to find views that I can’t remember where they are. I think this has something to do with the learning curve and that some of the views are actually multiple views (e.g., under “Categories” there is “all categories” and “by day”).

    Are there things on the current dashboard that you find yourself just not caring about? If so, what are they?
    I don’t find the analysis of time by category to be very useful. I also don’t find the goals very useful, as I’m focusing on overall optimization rather than meeting minimum requirements. I’m also trying to become more involved with the Project features, but haven’t found much value in that feature set so far.

    Do you have any other thoughts that you think might be helpful to us as we think through this process?
    I think the idea of moving to a story telling approach makes a lot more sense for the initial dashboard view. RescueTime reports on your time usage, but doesn’t seem to currently provide intelligence on where the accelerations or bottlenecks in productivity are. The story that I would love to know is how my day has unfolded, where my wins were, and what is causing bottlenecks in my workflow. Was I productive for the entirety of the last hour? Did I get held up trying to configure a new application? Am I spending too much time picking my music in iTunes? Adding a layer of intelligence to attribute cause to what is increasing or decreasing my productivity would be insanely helpful in telling the story of how I’m using my time and why I was or wasn’t productive. Maybe I don’t realize that every time I open Facebook I see a 4% decrease in productivity for the next 10 minutes.

    Again, love the vision and value proposition of a service like this, and wish your team the best on the upgrade!

    1. Wow, thanks for that thoughtful reply! That’s really helpful. For the gamification of your time, I wonder if you’d find our browser plugin helpful? It gives you an at-a-glance comparison of your current day to the averages over the last two weeks. You can mouse over the productivity bars to see the comparison for different productivity levels. You can learn more about it here: https://www.rescuetime.com/browser-plugin

  2. Answers:
    1.When you go to RescueTime.com, what’s the main thing you’re hoping to learn?
    .For the current day, week, month and year: time actively in front of any kind of screen split by type: mobile(phone and tablet) vs desktop excluding phone call use
    .Phone call use
    2.Is there anything you find yourself digging for that you wish you didn’t have to?
    . Outliers (for example time logged for some Android apps like Navigation)
    . phone (Android) conversations
    . workweek vs weekends statistical info
    3. Are there things on the current dashboard that you find yourself just not caring about? If so, what are they?

    1. Time broken down by device would be really interesting. good idea! Ditto about the outliers. We’re working on a few ideas on how to bubble up information like that. Thanks!

  3. 1. Main thing I want to learn is my efficiency
    2. Instead of a daily measure of efficiency I would rather like read this indicator hourly
    3. The widget “All activities by day” isn’t much readable
    4. Please kill flash plugin, you’re my last daily website using it.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, with whatever we do, we’re moving away from Flash. We’re doing pretty much all of our new visualizations with d3 now.

  4. 1. When you go to RescueTime.com, what’s the main thing you’re hoping to learn? —> Simple: am I more productive than I was in a comparable time period? Am I slacking off or doing well?

    2. Is there anything you find yourself digging for that you wish you didn’t have to? –> I’d like to be able to see much more actionable goals on the dashboard. I’d like for example to set a goal of reducing my Facebook time by 20% this month. My progress in relation to that goal should be displayed front and center if I choose it.

    3. Are there things on the current dashboard that you find yourself just not caring about? If so, what are they? –> The graphs with data cramped together does not give me an overview (e.g. All goals by day or All activities by day)

    4. Do you have any other thoughts that you think might be helpful to us as we think through this process? –> I need less data, presented in a better way. Think of the typical Foursquare checkin: “This is your first BBQ check-in in 4 months”. I need Rescuetime to be the same: “Today you have used Twitter 10% less than usual on a Monday. If you keep this up, your monthly productivity score will be 5% higher than normal for February”…. or something like that.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! “I need less data, presented in a better way.” nicely sums up what we’re hoping to achieve. Also, we’re definitely going to make it much easier to do time comparisons.

  5. Hello, I’ve just recently started using RecueTime, but so far I’ve really liked the experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the service can help me become more productive! My answers:

    1. When you go to RescueTime.com, what’s the main thing you’re hoping to learn?

    I don’t spend too much time in the dashboard; I mainly look at the summary and productivity by hour and that’s it.

    Most of the time I spend on the website to refine the metrics that are being collected. I use RecueTime as a general life-tracker, so I like to fill in the offline time, and review how my most common activities are being classified and scored.

    2. Is there anything you find yourself digging for that you wish you didn’t have to?

    I spend a fair bit of time in the “Categorize Activities” page, as what is productive for me might be unproductive for others. It would be really excellent if I could note which activities are correctly categorized; I guess, it would be better to have an “Uncategorized Activities” page so that I can quickly categorize new activities. And, it’s not really the categorization that matters here (I’m not sure how important categorization is), it’s mainly assigning the right productivity scores to each activity. Honestly, the metric of > 5 minutes filters out a ton of stuff, and assigning productivity scores manually to > 5 minute activities isn’t a big task.

    3. Are there things on the current dashboard that you find yourself just not caring about? If so, what are they?

    On the dashboard, I only really look at the summary and productivity by hour.

    It would be nice if today’s productivity by hour could be compared to the weeky/monthly/yearly average!

    4. Do you have any other thoughts that you think might be helpful to us as we think through this process?

    I think of the dashboard not only as a place to quickly view statistics, it’s also a place to quickly notify us as to what things we could do to improve the metrics, with quick links to where to do them. Like, if I’ve done a new activity (or an old activity has passed the > 5 minute metric), then the dashboard could ask me if a suggested productivity score is correct. Similarly, since I like to mark offline time as well, if it could give me a list of times with no associated activity, I could quickly mark what I was doing during those times, which would be great!

    As a more general comment, I like the current “Enter Offline Time” interface, but it would be nice if it were also possible to edit existing offline time; sometimes I’ll mark something as a particular thing, realize it would be better done this other way, but be unable to edit it.

    Really enjoying RescueTime so far! Thanks!

    1. Thanks! Great point about being alerted to verify scores for new things coming into the system. We’re working on ways to make some of the “system health” actions more obvious. Oh, and editing / deleting offline time is coming soon, too. It just didn’t make it into our first iteration.

    2. That’s great, thanks for the response! I look forward to seeing RescueTime evolve! And PS, thanks so much for releasing a Linux client! We get ignored so often, feels great to be able to use RescueTime on all my machines.

  6. Hi,

    Sounds great that you are trying to improve the dashboard! I agree with most of the excellent comments above, especially with what Tim Walsh wrote, whose workflow is very similar to mine.

    However, I have some additional comments:

    I do not find project time tracking very useful at present. My projects generally use the same applications so to get RescueTime to automatically put activities in the right project does not seem possible. Instead of, as now, having to enter all project time manually it would be nice with a project tracking feature such that it is possible to indicate when starting and ending working on a particular project (since I usually split my day between two or three projects), and that time (including the activities etc) is associated with the chosen project. Preferably this could be managed through the menu bar icon (Mac).

    In contrast to some commenters above I find the All Activities widget very useful; when starting using RescueTime I was shocked to see how much time I spend on e-mail compared to more productive activities!

    I enter offline time through the pop-up window and would appreciate if it was possible to add a few more than the current 6 presets in order to be able to enter offline time quickly without having to proceed to the webpage to add details manually.

    Finally, adding support for iPhone, iPad and Safari (for the browser plug-in) would also be great.

    Looking forward to seeing the improved dashboard!

    1. Thanks! Great feedback! We’ve got plans to address several of the items you bring up (projects, offline time, etc) in the near-ish future.

  7. I only have a moment to shoot off a quick comment at the moment, but a visual that works well for me when budgeting anything–whether money or time–is piecharts. Because I’m primarily trying to figure out where the heck my time is going, piecharts help me to see that information for each category relative to the other categories. (The current bar graph dashboard doesn’t do that for me nearly as effectively.) I’m thinking along the lines of how Mint.com makes you aware of where your money’s going–with a pie chart that you can organize in different ways and click on each category to see specifics. However, they also keep a bar graph option–so another visual option which enables folks to envision what times of day are most & least productive would similarly still be a valid consideration.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Marissa! I agree, there are different visualization styles that work best depending on the situation. We’re exploring several options, and have found many cases where the bar charts aren’t the best way of conveying the information.

  8. First of all, you guys have done a fantastic job so far! It is already helping tons of people reclaim their time :-). Good data visualization isn’t easy and you have done an admirable job so far. Here are some of my thoughts after using the service for several weeks:

    Something that I would find extremely useful is number of context switches (perhaps it exists but I haven’t found it?). In other words, how many times I switch between a productive and a non-productive app. What kills my productivity is not necessarily how much time I spent say on Facebook but rather how frequently I check it while working on another important task. I imagine frequent context switches are a major killer of productivity for other people as well. Also, time away from the computer (e.g. no input for some time, screensaver etc.) should also be counted… maybe not productivity-labeled but visualized nonetheless. Context-switching would be the #1 metric I would like to track throughout the day.

    Lastly, I think a simplified interface would be more useful for a majority of users and would probably encourage new users to give it a shot. Right now it seems a bit overwhelming with probably too much data. Since everybody has different goals and therefore metrics to track, perhaps a wizard-style introduction would be useful. This way you can introduce the user to the basic concepts and terminology, ask them about their goals (perhaps with examples) and then set up their dashboard to emphasize this information. I can imagine a few dashboard templates focused around the most common goals people have would go a long way.

  9. In a rush so shoot offing something quick. I’m glad you are revamping the dashboard it looks a little old school, like a speadsheet template.

    The bar graph labels are on a slant, it would be nice if they were straight.
    I’ve looked at other time trackers and they label with the icons, like Firefox, Reader, Excel…which you recognize immediately and also look fantastic. Other ones also have a slim panel on the left hand side of the graph that list the icon and next to it the exact time spent.

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