Dropbox - Increasing Collaboration Within Shared Cloud Content

Dropbox, a global leader in cloud storage, has been investing in increasing collaboration within our product by reducing friction when people receive shared content. One of these high-friction points was the shared content invites on our email platform. I redesigned these while also setting a future direction for shared content invites across all platforms (email, web, desktop, and mobile). I collaborated with UX writing, Product Management, Engineering, and UX Research.
Product Designer
3+ months (Sep - Dec '20)
Core Responsibilities
Product design, strategy, research


People lose track of shared content that matters

Email invites, the #1 way that users open shared content, are received several million times per week. However, only X% try to open shared content when they receive an email. Our business goal was to increase this rate by improving the percentage of users clicking the email call-to-action button. Our user goal was to make it easier to stay on top of content that matters.

When receivers don't open their shared content via email, this commonly stops collaboration with senders from happening

Both senders and receivers of shared content go through a series of steps that lead to collaboration.


After auditing shared content invites across web, mobile, and desktop, I prioritized redesigning emails due to its popularity amongst users

Our goal was to leverage learnings from emails before improving the other shared content invites.

We hypothesize that shared content invites via email don't propel receivers to take any action because of missing or unclear content

- It’s difficult to read emails because of buried or absent key information
- Instructions are unclear because most emails don’t include messages
- Email call-to-action button doesn’t match user expectations. People expect to preview content before adding it to Dropbox


Provide additional context and actions to help people identify important content that needs their attention

I observed other competitors, such as Google Drive and Box. They were focused on brevity, but there was wasn't another way to gain more context other than making the inconvenient effort of opening the content itself.
Competitor - Box
Competitor - Google Drive
To gain a competitive advantage, I proposed including extra helpful context and actions, such as people invited to shared content, without sacrificing simplicity. This would help people discern important notifications from unimportant ones in a sea of emails. The additional context could help them decide whether or not they should invest in taking action on emails.


Exploring how to incorporate richer context and actions to encourage action

I wanted to make sure that we either design for personal and business users separately or find a solution that could suit both. I listed down the needs for both types of users, and I realized that there was sufficient overlap to pursue a solution that would suit all users. We placed a greater emphasis on business users because Dropbox was investing in business use cases at the time.

Sketching how we might increase the speed of understanding context in shared content invites

I explored opportunities to give directives to receivers so that they'd know whether or not the email required their action.

Challenging our ethics and integrity about click-bait tactics that don't end up helping our receivers

The team suggested to hide context and reveal more information after clicking the email call-to-action button. I explained that this would influence users to enter content that didn’t need their attention. I challenged us to see our users as human beings, who deserve to have their time respected.


Through usability testing, we learned that extra email context and actions motivate receivers to take action on shared cloud content

I worked with a Senior UX Researcher and a UX writer to test our strategic possibility by understanding how receivers triage their notifications and by showing rough concepts (shown to the right). We conducted interviews on usertesting.com. This research confirmed our hypotheses.
Option 1 - Full range of context and actions
Option 2 - Extremely minimal range of context and actions


A quick way to understand what an invite to shared content is about so receivers can assess what matters

The final design is composed of testing various explorations based on different goals

Plan of Action

A gradual approach due to emails being highly-visited and customers being extremely sensitive to change


Increased email button click-through rates by 350% for mobile emails but experienced decrease for non-mobile emails

This led more users opening and collaborating on shared content. However, non-mobile emails did not perform as well due to custom fonts not rendering properly. This might have made it appear like the email was not coming from Dropbox. In the future, we plan to test emails on different devices and email clients more diligently.
After milestone 2 (above) there was a slight decrease in click-through rates. Our team deliberated on whether or not that was a positive situation because it was possible that we did help people understand if the email was important or not. Ultimately, we decided not to move release milestone 2 to the public. Though the overall click-through rate was lower, there was a significant increase after milestone 1 (new header + reduced copy) for mobile. This experiment helped us understand that we need to take into mobile vs. web emails and how design affects both contexts.

Vision of the future

A cohesive shared content invite system that supports multiple and faster avenues of collaboration

Though the initial goal was to increase collaboration by opening shared content, I gave a provocation that questioned whether that was an accurate measurement of collaboration. Opening shared content is just one of many avenues of collaboration, such as asking questions and gathering context first before deciding to take action. I reframed what collaboration in Dropbox meant by exploring other actions that might lead to back-and-forth interactions between senders and receivers.

Allowing folder previews first

Upon receiving email invitations, people prefer not to add shared content to their Dropbox right away. Adding it takes up storage space. They might want to assess the content first. Allowing users to choose where they want to store the shared content based on recommended locations (based on machine learning) leads to better collaboration. This makes it easier and faster to access shared content.
Receivers gets email about what's inside the folder
Receiver can preview files before adding to Dropbox

Adding files to folder from email

Receivers of shared content who need to add files can take this action from their email instead of visiting the folder first. This is a contextual and convenient action based on the sender's goal.

Reply actions

Receivers of shared content might need more clarification from the sender. The "reply" action allows receivers to exchange context all in one place before opening the shared content and collaborating. This avoids having fragmented info that might disorient receivers.

Tying additional context and actions consistently across web, mobile, and desktop

Currently, shared content invites have inconsistent information and actions. Friction that exists in emails today also exist for our mobile, web, and desktop platforms. Our team plans to leverage our learnings from email invites and apply them to all other entry points into shared content on web, mobile, and desktop. This will create a more consistent user experience.
💡 Email provides priority info, additional context, and the ability to reply to senders
💡 Reply functionality allows senders and receivers of shared content to exchange context
💡 Context exchanged in emails should be reflected in the web shared content hub
💡 Context exchanged in emails should be reflected in the desktop app (windows + macOS)


Rethinking indicators of collaboration

Prior to this project, opening shared content was a main indicator of collaboration. I demonstrated how other context and actions might lead to back-and-forth interactions between senders and receivers. I learned to develop a stronger point of view, especially on design ethics. I hope to continue advocating for people and their needs, even if it means sacrificing business metrics.