Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Community Participant

Idea System Broken?

I would like to propose that the Canvas Idea system for feature requests is broken.

There are 321 items that have been voted over 100 by canvas admins and are in the "no man's land" called "product radar." There are only 120 items that have made it into Canvas. That's only 1 in 4 requests that have actually seen the light of day.

Here are some observations:

  • Many ideas get lots of votes only to get shelved as not important by the development team. It makes one ask why they bothered to go through all the work to not be taken seriously? It feels more like a scam to make us feel like we are being listened to when in fact there is little change of the idea seeing the light of day.
  • If traffic is low during this time of year and an idea will likely not get 100 votes for that reason, it's broken. This sets an impossible standard to achieve. This is the second time we've faced this with an idea? Again, why bother if there is little chance of the idea seeing the light of day. Sadly, simply lowering the threshold will not improve the likelihood that an feature request will make it to production.

It leaves me wondering, does Instructure really listen or is this system just a bunch of red tape to tie things up and make it difficult to get issues fixed or improved? - Canvas team, please don't get defensive on this. I'm sure your intentions are pure, but the realities on our end may be providing a different result than your intentions.

Again, I propose that the entire idea/feature request system is broken. If there really are limited resources for development, Instructure needs a better way process their customer suggestions.

canvas idea feature idea #feature ideas
115 Replies
Community Champion

 @James ‌,

What you write about Instructure's development philosophy struck a memory. I remember hearing a couple of clear messages at the vendor demos for the selection process that led to my college's switch to Canvas. One was the confident refusal of developers to make a change in Canvas, no matter the circumstances, if the requested alteration led to some fundamental shift in the usability of the program. Another was a statement about their focus on the middle 60% (or was it 80%?) of users. I have been telling some of my faculty peers who feel thwarted that the focus on the middle 60% means there is a top 20% that are more likely to view structure as restraint. The fact that power users like you are able to test that structure and share your discoveries and innovations, all in a space that is supported by the vendor, is something I feel fortunate to be part of. Now if I can only get myself back to grading discussion entries. 

Community Coach
Community Coach

If anyone reading this discussion is interested, here is a list of some of the many different things James has programmed for Canvas and put out free for anyone to use -

I've always heard middle 60% as well, but ulatimately that's another great reason for the Community. The top 20% can enrich and supe up their Canvas experience by collaborating and sharing here in the Community. The bottom 20% has a place they can come and get help and ask questions so they can better use the features that exist. 

 @ariel_maldonado ‌, I'm glad that you've been part of the feature idea process, but sorry you don't feel like your ideas have been really looked at. The first thing to understand is that number of votes does not mean everything. I've seen some ideas with a handful - literally less than 10 - get implemented into Canvas because it fit with something Canvas was working on or a direction they were heading. Or, sometimes it was an engineers pet project that they worked on during hack week -‌. I

've also seen ideas that have had hundreds (300+) sit for years because they don't fit with the direction Canvas is going or would take too much to implement right now. The feature idea area is just one of many places that product managers can get information about what the Canvas users want. It's not the sole place where all information comes from. 

The last thing I'd like to include is that to try and make the process better for everyone feature ideas have recently undergone a revamping. This change has allowed ideas to stay open longer and for the number of votes to not count nearly as much as the overal percent compared to other ideas - so keeping top ten percent, regardless of votes. 

So I guess what I'm saying is don't feel disheartened and please keep participating in the Community!

Community Contributor

As someone who is piloting Canvas for possible adoption by our college, a couple things strike me about this post:

First, it is good to see an open community that even allows for customer involvement.  Our current system / company is pretty much non-responsive for even simple requests.  Or bug fixes. This open atmosphere is very attractive to us.

Second, a healthy community allows people to express their concerns without group condemnation.  The responses I have seen here are respectful.  Again, while this thread raises concerns about suggestions not being implemented in a certain priority or quickly enough, this is definitely better than what many companies offer.

We will make a decision about Canvas in the next month or so. 

Community Coach
Community Coach

To add to what others have posted about Project Khaki, here is the link to a blog by Deactivated user that explains more about it - Khaki 2.0: A Canvas Collaboration | 

Community Participant

A couple issues.

  • If Canvas has allocated 20% to the Khaki group priorities, where is the other 80 percent allocated? Is that all to internal priorities? More specifically, how much development time is pre-allocated to new ideas that are submitted over the year? I'm sensing from this discussion that it is very little to none. I get it that Canvas can't do everything, but is there really a budget for implementing idea requests (outside of Khaki). The perception in some cases is that the idea get's implemented if it was something Canvas already thought was important or was going to do anyway. (Yes, I've read the full thread here, so you don't have to repeat things that have already been said in the reply.)
  • Bugs/Design Flaws. Honestly this is the "fly in the ointment" for me. I get it that Canvas can't do everything and has to set priorities. I get it that not all feature request can be implemented for various reasons. I do however believe that one of the things that is broken is identifying poor designs or implementation issues and correcting them. I mentioned two in another post (tile color overlay and MGP report generation). Canvas needs to budget for revisions to any new feature to fix things that were not done right the first time based community feedback. There needs to be a separate way for the community to identify and respond to these issues. It frustrates me to no end that whenever I point out a very practical problem with how something designed or implemented that I'm told I have to run the Idea Submission gauntlet.

The Bugs/Design Flaw issue I raised previously has not been addressed by the Canvas team here. Here's the link to the post so I don't have to repeat everything here.

I'm very interested in the Canvas team's responses to these two items.

Hi Kate,

I'm glad to hear that this has been your experience interacting in the Canvas Community.  Keeping a respectful, open and welcoming tone is very important to us.  I personally want every person coming to the community to have a similar experience to the one I had when I first found the Canvas message boards back in 2011.  Obviously that was a much smaller community back in those days but we still strive for the same experience.

Scott Dennis

Director of Community and Documentation

Community Participant

I couldn't agree with you more.  It is a ridiculous system that users of Canvas do not have time to daily monitor and upvote and critical misses are still ignored just because other users don't have that problem (yet -- or more likely they gave up trying -- like I did).   Just download to Excel, do what I need, and upload to Canvas (or not).  

Back to work finding work-arounds for all things Canvas.  There is no point in reporting problems.  

They could not care less how actual users are faring with their short-sighted design choices.

Yep, its 20/60/20 as a general guide.  Questions that can send a feature idea to its grave faster than anything include:

  • Would this lead to an increased risk of downtime?
  • Does this make life easier for a minority but make the overall experience of most people more complicated?
  • Does this violate 'simple, open, powerful'?
  • Is this something that would benefit a minority who could instead use a work around (thereby saving eng cycles for projects that benefit the majority.