Done right, IT monitoring provides clarity and promotes operational effectiveness. Done wrong, it can make your staff crazy and limit business...
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Better Visibility Equals Better Insight
As a user experience designer with prior experience in the Pharma industry (specialized in visualisation of clinical trial data), joining Opsview was an intriguing prospect. Getting to grips with concepts such as Hosts, Service Checks, containers, and ephemeral objects (with all their myriad states) was a lot to take on board.
My main task was to help build on Opsview Monitor’s solid foundation of making the hybrid IT estate highly visible, while bringing new ideas in presenting data to help create more insight and faster user journeys.
As with any design problem, I start with research. I scoured Google and YouTube, read articles and watched videos. What I found was a bit daunting, at first, but also highlighted a genuine opportunity: there are hundreds, if not thousands of ways that various monitoring solutions present data and there is no common standard.
UX/UI Design in Monitoring Tools
I also learned that -- up until recently -- UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface) design has all too often been an afterthought in the monitoring space. Monitoring solutions have often been conceived and designed by engineers and/or product managers. The good news is that this tends to make them feature-rich – the not-so-good that they focus on the mantra of ’more is more’: believing that the more stuff they cram on the screen, the more business value they are providing to their end users.
Unfortunately, reality can be the opposite. Whilst respecting monitoring’s basic need to display large volumes of data intelligibly, things can be greatly improved. Today’s users want to get insights quickly, and act on them quickly, even as our attention spans get shorter and shorter. More broadly, we are all now used to touchscreen devices with instant feedback; and online and SaaS products with sophisticated user interfaces. Whether you work as an admin, or on a service desk – even if you’re a DevOps rockstar using the command line – you’re demanding more usability from your tools.
Time is Money
In monitoring, the primary metric of success is time: we need to make it quicker and easier for our users to gain insights, correlate problems, and resolve them. Every single UI element on a user interface adds to the overall cognitive load of that interface (meaning it takes longer to comprehend). What’s more, without a sense of hierarchy or reading order, the brain really struggles -- the user must take longer to understand or pinpoint the data they are trying to act on. Not good at all in this space -- time is literally money. So our focus is working closely with our customers, to help them do their jobs quicker and with less friction. In addition, businesses are pressuring IT owners for more consolidation: they’re frustrated with products that look and act like many disparate tools tied together, each with its own user experience. There’s a real demand for unified monitoring that offers one, standardized experience, end to end.
To add value and streamline a user interface, the designer must first understand the customer, and how they interact with that interface.
- What are the end user persona types and the various journeys each persona needs to take through their monitoring solution?
- What are their pain points?
- What would they like to do better?
Each user type has his or her own priorities, and each benefits from tailored paths through application and data, depending on their use cases, so to design user journeys that cater to each persona and use-case is clearly very important. Speaking to customers directly, testing ideas and design prototypes are crucial. If you want to test a design hypothesis, why write a line of code before you have some end user feedback indicating that the direction you are going in is the right one? If your monitoring solution does not provide tailored user experiences then you may be forcing users to waste valuable time deciphering unnecessarily complex data tables or dashboards, full of repetition and bloat, or slowing them down with repetitive tasks.
With design ethos embedded in our engineering team, we are iterating functional design improvements and releasing them more quickly. This forms a feedback loop with our customers, so we constantly refine our user journeys. In Opsview Monitor 6.2, we’re building on our foundation of a new look UI with greater visibility and insights. We’re ironing out the issues that our customers have identified whilst also looking to the future of automation, AI and better data visualization. We’re excited about the possibilities of the ideas working through the team and look forward to releasing some of them in the near future.
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