Building the New Face of Intralinks

6 February 2017


Where does the future of our UI lie?

Last summer, as we celebrated 20 years in business, the current Intralinks data room application also celebrated its eighth anniversary. That’s right, eight long years ago last summer, the first Intralinks virtual data rooms to use our (then) bleeding edge software (internally codenamed “ARC” at the time) rolled out to our users. Deals were done, agreements were made, money changed hands and the experience was overwhelmingly positive for users.

Well, eight years have given us a lot of client feedback, system improvements, User Interface (UI) tweaks/upgrades and a name change. Today the Intralinks Platform (or ILP, for short) is the premier virtual data room provider for M&A transactions, long-term syndicated loans, private equity investor reporting and numerous uses in the Enterprise space. Eight years have molded a UI that is more functional then ever, while continuing to be intuitive and easy-to-use.

Does that mean we’ll just congratulate ourselves on a job well done and break out the champagne? Do we close down the development offices and stop moving forward? Absolutely not. Thus, late last year we rolled out a preview of our next generation UI (code named “IL.NEXT” – but that will change in the final product) to select clients and internal testing teams. Once again, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

The drive behind the move is twofold. First, the current UI relies on an underlying technology called Adobe® Flex, which requires a web browser to have Adobe Flash installed. When it was created, Flex allowed for very dynamic and functional UIs inside a browser. This was because the main languages that webpages were coded in at the time – HTML and JavaScript – did not allow the functionality we wanted. That is no longer the case: Many sites you visit today use cutting-edge HTML5 technology to create a similar interface without the need for a plugin or the performance hit that Flash sometimes entails. Additionally, Adobe Flash is slowly becoming something of a major security problem, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to remove the dependency from our system. The new UI is going to be 100% Flash free.

Secondly, the current UI is unfortunately reaching a function limit. We are constantly taking client feedback to add new functionality, tweak existing functionality and remove older functionality that has either been depreciated or is rarely used. This can mean that sometimes the UI visuals get more cramped, and we are set to lose some of the style and intuitiveness we had before.

So what is coming? Well, glad you asked! If you have used our Enterprise file sync & share solution, Intralinks VIA® Pro, you’ll be happy to see the new UI design is reminiscent of that. Pop-ups are gone; instead we have slide-out menus. To upload files you can drag-and-drop from your desktop into the web browser. Fonts and form sizes dynamically resize to your browser’s window size. We are using a type of responsive design – meaning that new interface will look nice on a 4K office monitor, an iPad® or just a plain laptop. Background operations are more common; this means when you upload 100MB of files through the web browser, you don’t need to wait for a loading bar. The upload will run in the background, allowing you to do other things inside the application. Finally, its waaaay faster. Current performance testing is seeing something like a 50+ % speed increase on normal navigation tasks. And as additional bonus, it’s linked to the current UI, so if you want to switch back in the middle of a deal, it’s no problem.

When, you ask? The current beta/controlled release is available now for very limited use cases. This is because we don’t have everything in the new UI yet. However, standard data room uses and some Intralinks data rooms can try out the new interface. We are expecting a full rollout of all functionality by the end of the year, with incremental changes and feature rollouts happening on a very regular basis. The future is coming and you’ll see it soon!

Nick McCarthy

Nick McCarthy

Nick McCarthy was a hardened veteran of Intralinks’ advanced support and engineering groups before joining the Presales group as a Sales Engineer. In Presales he focuses on Intralinks applications for Strategic Financial transactions, with a strong interest in Enterprise-level solutioning utilizing Intralinks SaaS platform offerings. Prior to joining Intralinks, Nick worked in many other technology fields and lived in Japan for four years (though his Japanese is a bit rusty these days). He is a native of NYC and has a degree in Computer Science and Information Systems from Pace University.