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  • Writer's pictureJoel White

Q&A - Cluttered

Our pricing tool has over 30 tabs, which makes it hard to navigate and forces us to hide a lot of them. What's the best way to pare it down to a manageable size?

I feel your pain and see this all the time- one of my first clients came to me when their 100MB pricing tool wouldn't even open any more.

Here's what I look for:

1. Put as much price calculation on one tab as possible

The #1 culprit producing tab clutter is creating a separate pricing tab for every department, service area, product, etc. While there's a benefit from having less vertical space to work through on each tab, this benefit is often far outweighed by the resulting clutter, increase in maintenance effort, opportunity for error, and ability of that page to provide a database of your pricing, among many other factors.

Mock up what your tool would look like if all price calculations were performed on one tab. The number of rows in play will certainly increase...perhaps exponentially, but there are ways to offset that factor through removing redundancy and programming navigation helpers (read on).

2. Reduce redundancy

One of my favorite principles of software development is "Keep it DRY", i.e., don't repeat yourself.

Look for tabs that:

  • serve no purpose except to restate what is already shown elsewhere.

  • no longer serve any purpose (like the one requested 2 years ago by someone who is no longer around).

  • provide intermediate "helper" calculations from one page to another- instead, consolidate the calculations.

  • contain tables of data that can be combined- e.g., you may have multiple tabs with tables that all essentially collect information for various countries. Consolidate into one and use Group and other functionality to make navigation easy.

To keep the number of pricing rows manageable, read my recent post on pricing redundancy.

The more you think of your pricing tool as a series of tables, like a database, the more you'll realize the huge benefits of consolidating tabs.

3. Add navigation helpers

The result of the above, while resulting in fewer tabs to deal with, may result in some tabs of significant length. Excel has several highly effective ways to navigate such tabs to get you where you're heading as quickly as possible:

  • Group- your pricing table will likely have some format of [Service/Product Area] -> [Service/Product] -> [role/unit breakout]. Group these items together to quickly roll up what you don't need to see and vice versa.

  • Navigation links (page)- add a list of hyperlinks to the top of the page, like you would see in a browser. Point these to named ranges throughout the page so that the links still point to the right place as rows and columns are added over time.

  • Navigation links (file)- for highly complex tools, especially those where you simply must keep multiple pricing tabs for various reasons, consider a "home page" approach with 1) a Links tab that hyperlinks to all other pages, and 2) a link back to this page on each individual tab. (Although this is an example of how having too many tabs can lead you to add...more tabs!).

  • Spend the time on formatting sections, headers, etc. to visually cue people on what they're seeing.

Did I miss anything? Drop me a note.


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