Notion’s been making lots of subtle changes lately, focused on user experience improvements, and this is a welcome one!
In short, relations both look and behave differently, allowing for more customization of what’s visible, and how pages are organized. We’ll get into the most important parts, and what this might mean for your workspace.
What are relations?
If you’re new to Notion, relations may be one of those deep features you haven’t utilized yet. Relations allow you to connect different databases together, which opens up a variety of options as to how you display, filter and sort data from different databases.
The easiest example would be relating a Projects database to a Tasks database. By doing so, you can then sort tasks by project, see only tasks from a certain group of projects, or see what tasks are left across projects. The possibilities are really endless.
Why does this update matter?
The new relations workflow may seem like a cosmetic change, but there’s a few key notes that make this a very useful and very welcome change.
1. Old Relations were very limited
Relating pages from different databases was pretty seamless, but (until now), you had little control over how pages were presented, here’s an example of a monthly review with related journal entries:
There was pretty much no formatting, making information harder to read.
2. You could see pages, and nothing else.
Take the projects & tasks relation as an example. Once you open a project, and see related tasks, although this could be useful, there’s no other information about the tasks visible, meaning you have to click into tasks to get further information.
3. Adding New Pages was not Easy
There were a few challenges with this, from slow speed, to having to navigate all the way to the bottom of the pop-up to create a new page. It was clear this use-case wasn’t fully fleshed out at the onset.
They’re a handful of subtle changes, but they work together to make a big leap in user experience.
1. Manually Change the Order of Pages
This may seem trivial, but deciding which pages show up first means not having to scroll through many entries to find the right page. Especially in cases where there are a high number of pages, this is definitely a welcome change.
2. Decide what Properties are Visible
Before this update, you could see tasks related to a project, but that was it. Now you can surface information like status, due date, or priority.
3. Quickly add a New Page
Adding a new page was not the fastest experience before. Now, simply clicking at the top of the pop-up and typing will both surface any pages with the same words or prompt you to create a new page.
4. Most Importantly, a Much Cleaner Layout
Lastly, taking more of a list approach to showing relations really cleans up the properties section of the page. This, coupled with displaying properties makes this particular view of relations much more functional.
A Welcome Change
Overall, this is a nice update to the relational database workflow. It’s not without its limitations however. Deciding to make multiple properties visible breaks the view, and it could get illegible due to the left-to-right organization. These limitations feel like they could be easily remedied in a future update, but we’ll see if/when that happens.