Make it simple. It sounds easy, but it’s surprisingly challenging. As Creative Director and UI Designer for CenturyLink Cloud, I’m charged with taking the complex tasks and concepts of managing a business’ IT infrastructure, and defining the interface that allows our customers to control it. Over the past year or so, you’ve probably noticed the CenturyLink Cloud Control Portal interface has evolved as new features have rolled out, or improvements to existing functionality have been implemented.
Typically, managing an infrastructure requires interacting with a lot of different tools, from load balancers and hypervisors, to firewall systems and monitoring software, not to mention the developer environment for your app. These systems allow you to control your infrastructure down to the last detail. However, with that control comes great complexity, and the interfaces of some these products can be quite challenging to use to say the least. Just because a product is designed for the enterprise, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a consumer level of simplicity to use it.
Many times, it feels as if the interface for enterprise-level products is an afterthought, when in fact it should be one of the first areas of focus. It is after all, a key touchpoint to your brand that customers interact with on daily basis. The importance of this fact is not taken lightly at CenturyLink Cloud, and we’re constantly working to improve not only the feature set of our offering, but making it really easy to implement and use.
One of our most primary offerings is deploying a server. This involves deciding where the server should be deployed, giving it a name, and how many resources (cpu, memory, storage) it can consume. Sounds simple enough, but examine each facet of a server deployment, and you’ll realize creating a user interface for this process can actually become quite a daunting task.
Each decision has an impact on the choices available later in the process. For example deciding between an Enterprise versus as a Standard server not only has an impact on cost, but on the amount of memory or cpu you can choose to consume. In the CenturyLink Cloud Control Portal, all of this information–price and settings–are reflected back to the customer as they create a new server.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “well of course that’s the way it should work,” and that’s actually the point. You’d be surprised how often application interfaces are is built without seemingly standard or best-practices UI principles in mind. As a customer, you get constant feedback on the decisions you make, so you know exactly what you will get, and what the estimated cost will be.
Our goal is for the experience of using the CenturyLink Cloud Control Portal to not be something that needs “figuring out,” but a tool that enables our customers to easily interact and manage their infrastructure, and not worry about figuring out another complex “enterprise” application.