One of the key components to improved usability and higher user adoption is simplicity in design. This is simple in theory, but often extremely difficult and time consuming in execution. An approach I have been using with the Dynamics CRM platform is to remove as many of the unnecessary items from the user’s view as possible. For example, if a user’s main function is sales, do they need to see cases or invoices? Likely not, so removing it from their view simplifies their experience and allows them to focus on what matters for their role.

In a recent project we have spent a lot of time focused on providing a streamlined interface. The Dynamics CRM platform often enables a user to perform the same function in multiple ways. For advanced users, this is often an advantage, but in some cases this can lead to confusion, increased training time, and lower user adoption. For example, Dynamics CRM out-of-the-box allows user to edit a record in two ways: click on the ‘Edit’ button in the Ribbon or double click on a record. Both methods have the same outcome, but the client only wanted a single way to teach their sales teams to edit a record. In this case, the ‘Edit’ button was removed from the Ribbon and users were taught to double click on the record to open and edit it. Another focus for the client was on the record’s form. A standard Dynamics CRM form has a lot of great functionality, but much of the functionality wasn’t used. To streamline the form experience, all buttons that did not directly correlate to a person’s job function was removed. The result was a CRM form with only the buttons that provided critical functionality for the user’s day-to-day activities.

All this sounds simple in a design session, but the process of defining what is critical for a person’s day-to-day job and updating the Ribbon accordingly can become a major task within a delivery cycle. Through this process, I have come up with a few steps for streamlining the Dynamics CRM 2011 interface:

  • Define what is critical for the user to perform their job. Functions within an organization will have different needs, so this step must be done at a functional level.
  • Customize the Wunderbar (left hand navigation on the homepage) based on functional role. Remove all navigation items that to do apply to the user’s role.
  • Define the appropriate security roles and assigning the user appropriately. This will eliminate items from the user’s view that do not provide value and ensure that the user will only see or manage data they are intended to.
  • Customize the Ribbon to remove unnecessary buttons from view and create new buttons that provide high business value. Dynamics CRM 2011’s Ribbon is very powerful and extendable, but in my experience it is challenging to learn and work with. To make it a bit easier to manage, I have been using Ribbon Workbench. This is a great tool and has saved me many hours of manual XML manipulation.

Within a Dynamic CRM form, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Remove the left hand navigation items that are not relevant. This can be done by updating the relationship for the entity in the customizations and select ‘Do Not Display’ for the Navigation Pane Item for Primary Entity option. This can also be achieved by removing the left hand navigation menu item through the form customization.

  • For forms that serve more as a dialog, uncheck the setting ‘Show the navigation’ under the display settings on the form properties dialog. This provides a very clean and simplified dynamics form without the left hand navigation area.


Here are a few examples:

Standard Contact Form







Streamlined Contact Form


Original Task Form:


Streamlined Task Form:


Streamlined Form without the left navigation:


Suggested resources: