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Category Direction - Navigation & Settings

Introduction and how you can help

Thanks for visiting the GitLab Navigation & Settings category direction page. This page belongs to the Editor group of the Create stage and is maintained by Eric Schurter (E-Mail). Much of this page is inspired by the work our UX department has done over the years leading the way in research and design for the navigation and configuration experience within GitLab. As a global, foundational aspect of the GitLab product, this area does not have an obvious, single product owner. The Editor group is taking the reins to improve this critical aspect of the GitLab experience and increase GitLab's overall system usability score (SUS).

This strategy is a work in progress, and everyone can contribute:


We are responsible for creating navigational structures that are intuitive, in tune with user needs, and representative of the numerous workflows of our community of users. However, when designing for the needs of so many different people, we often have to make compromises and not everyone is pleased with the result. Navigation is not just about getting from point A to B; it can shape workflows, empower users to discover new, more efficient ways of working, and ultimately determine how comfortable users are with a product. From the moment users log in for the first time to when they start diving deeper into GitLab’s diverse feature set, our navigation structure is critical for shaping the user's path and, ultimately, their success in using GitLab.

Similarly, GitLab can be customized and configured to meet the specific needs of a wide variety of use cases. The flexibility offered within each feature is exposed in the Settings pages and the overall experience of GitLab is greatly impacted by the user's ability to discover, manipulate, and return to these settings with confidence and consistency.

Where we are Headed

We want to provide a better experience for users to complete common navigational tasks. These include:

Navigation is currently project and group centric. It’s easy enough to find “Project Things” and “Group Things” such as a project issue list, but it’s harder for an individual to find “My Things”, such as an aggregate of their MR pipelines. We don’t provide users with tools to quickly get to items that are important to them. This is where we are headed.

Our current navigation is centered around projects and groups.


graph TD Project-->Project_MRs Project-->Project_Issues Project-->Project_Pipelines Project-->Project_Files Project-->Project_Activity


graph TD Group-->Group_Members Group-->Group_Epics Group-->Group_MRs Group-->Group_Issues Group-->Group_Activity

In the future we need to also enable a user centric navigation that feels more like this.


graph TD Me-->Things_I_watch Me-->Issues_I_create Me-->MRs_I_contribute_to Me-->Pipelines_for_MRs_or_projects_I_work_on Me-->People_I_follow

With regard to the Settings experience, we are looking to improve discoverability and consistency within the pages. Our efforts are focused on:

Target Audience and Experience

In short, all roles & personas interact with navigation. We are focusing on helping users orient themselves around the things that are most important to them, so they can be more productive.

What's Next & Why

Areas of focus:

  1. Global and Contextual Navigation
  2. GitLab Settings
  3. Other UI features that aid in discoverability from a browse and discover standpoint (this excludes search, which is about locating a known object)

What is Not Planned Right Now

We have not planned to launch a whole new navigation experience. The work we have in the backlog to enhance the navigation is rather high in volume and many of the issues are heavy in weight. At this time we are focusing on issues that we can ship quickly that will have a high impact on how users interact with Gitlab.

Maturity Plan

This category is currently at the "Viable" maturity level, and our next maturity target is "Complete" by the the end of Q1 2021 (see our definitions of maturity levels).

Top user issue(s)

Recently, we conducted system usability research to better understand how our users interact with GitLab and also benchmark our results. In the feedback from the open text of the survey, we found a few key themes that tie back to our navigation. Below is a list of videos explaining our findings.

Top internal customer issue(s) and epic(s)

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