This is the final post in a series of User Experience (UX) topics on the Dell Cloud Blog. The first four topics were UX Culture at Dell Cloud Manager, The Benefits of a UI Pattern Library, Docs Day: UX Tested, Engineer Approved, and Best-in-Class User Research and Persona Building. We look forward to sharing more UX strategy with you in the future!
Dell Cloud Manager recently added a customizable catalog feature that allows admin-level customers to upload blueprints and make them easy to deploy by their end users. In the original feature, the user experience (UX) team added support for uploading blueprints through the user interface. This was in addition to the ability for users to upload through the API. We received great feedback on the catalog and upload capabilities, but one key use case that was not in the first release was the ability to track versions. Through continuous UX research, we learned that users could benefit greatly from the ability to maintain and track multiple versions of a single blueprint. For example, an administrator could test a new version before making it publicly available in the catalog. Also, if the blueprint administrator discovered a problem with a particular version, they could roll back to a previous, more stable version. This missing support for versions became our next goal for feature release.
A Lean Team Effort
At Dell Cloud Manager, we use lean teams to quickly research, design, develop, and test a new feature by fully dedicating a cross-functional team to focus on a measureable goal. The blueprint versioning feature was a lean team effort that included representatives from UX, front-end engineering, back-end engineering, and product management. All of the participants were remote, and all were fully dedicated to minimize distractions. This allowed us to work very quickly and deliver the feature to our customers in record time. The UX team kicked off the collaboration by presenting an initial set of mockups that were reviewed and discussed with the entire team. We considered numerous options when deciding how the feature could work and continuously revisited—and even refined—our primary goal. Once we came to a consensus, all team members worked in parallel, each of us with a common vision for the feature.
Three business days after the initial kick-off meeting, the UX team ran a set of hour-long usability studies. The participants completed core tasks using an interactive prototype, developed in collaboration with front-end engineering. This prototype eventually became our final software implementation. Over the next week, we iterated on the UI design and ultimately “hooked it up” to the back-end engineering work.
The usability studies validated our assumptions, as well as revealed areas where we could improve our design and implementation. For example, we identified a subtle labeling issue. Users were tripped up by a dialog button label named “Edit version.” In this part of the workflow, users had already made their edits and wanted to “Save”, not “Edit.” We also found design and implementation gaps. Users were confused as they created a new version because there was no feedback that the version had been successfully created. The screen refreshed to the initial, default view, and users were left wondering if their changes had been saved. These issues were identified and were quickly fixed.
The most significant finding of the usability study related to our capability set. We experimented with the idea of allowing users to edit their blueprints directly in Dell Cloud Manager. However, we realized that the inline editor we provided was competing with the user’s external versioning system. If a user edited within Dell Cloud Manager, their version would not be recorded in their preferred version control system, so we decided to remove this feature. On the surface it might seem like we reduced the capabilities of Dell Cloud Manager, but in reality, it clarified the capability, reduced confusion, and led to a superior user experience overall. By removing the inline editor, there is no longer confusion about where a user should edit files. And, there is no question about where version control is performed and managed. Using Dell Cloud Manager, our users can see their versions and switch between them. Any number of external tools can, and should, be used alongside Dell Cloud Manager to create and manage versions.
Lean Team Impact
The blueprint versioning feature was designed, developed, tested, documented, and deployed in 4.5 weeks. The tight collaboration of UX, engineering, and product management made it possible. The entire team was focused on building the essential components to support the best user experience. From reviewing the initial mockups to iterating on the UI design as a result of the usability study, the UX team was able to take user feedback and keep the lean team focused on the needs of the end user.
The Dell Cloud Manager User Experience Team welcomes your feedback and suggestions! If you’d like to join our research panel and contribute your voice to the development of Dell Cloud Manager, please visit: http://www.enstratius.com/support/usability.