In a few weeks, CenturyLink Cloud will roll out the first phase of visual changes to our Control Portal cloud management software. These changes are not only visually stunning, but functionally significant for our customers. Why are we making these changes, and what should you expect? This blog post dives into our motivation for the changes, and provides a sneak peek into what’s coming in the months ahead.
Why the Change?
We’ve all heard the saying “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” CenturyLink Cloud constantly receives positive recognition for our Control Portal, and Gartner recently lauded our “easy-to-use self-service portal” that showcases an “excellent, highly differentiated set of features.” Why are we moving forward with some substantial modifications to the user experience? We’re focused on five reasons:
Improve Application Performance. Web applications need to be fast to maximize utility, and so too does our Control Portal. We want our users to spend _less time _in our interface, create and manage complex environments, and more time solving strategic business problems. We’re constantly tweaking the current software experience to squeeze out performance improvements, but needed to take a new approach if we wanted to speed up the experience _and achieve new embedded analytics functionality. Our new UI paradigm – coupled with an upgraded backend API – reduces the number of datastore interactions while only reloading portions of the page for the user.
Improve Functional Performance. Not only should the site itself be fast, but users should be able to quickly perform routine actions. We’re improving the navigation experience to reduce clicks, and adding a series of “quick actions” that let users perform tasks on servers and Groups without having to drill into them.
Surface more actionable data. Increasing the amount of data on a screen – “information density” – is something that should be done very strategically and judiciously. How much is too much, or too little? We think our new design strikes the right balance between showing a wider range of useful data (e.g. which template was a server created from, CPU allocation trends, progress of Cloud Blueprint deployments), and not overwhelming the user.
Increased agility to add or change features. The CenturyLink Cloud Control Portal is comprised of a collection of modern technologies. Over time, additional frameworks are brought in and tacked on. We wanted to simplify the UI architecture so that it’s easier to make changes, and provide additional per-user customization options.
Maintain thought leadership position. In the new Gartner Magic Quadrant for IaaS, they called us a platform leader. We earned this moniker because of our advanced feature set and software-oriented focus to enterprise cloud management. We want to continue to push the envelope and show how enterprise software can be beautiful, intuitive, and useful.
What’s Coming First?
On October 22nd, we will update the “chrome” of the Control Portal. This includes the topmost header bar, the navigation menu, and the breadcrumb. The top section of the Control Portal today looks like this:
Above, we have the various drop-down menus, the user’s name, a sign-out button, the account browser, and the Global Search box. On the right side of the page, there’s a Support button that opens a window with various support-related actions.
The new header bar unifies and simplifies the experience.
On the right-hand side, there are four key actions that we call our “auxiliary menu”. More things may be added here over time.
The Global Search box is available at all times. The “three lines” icon sends you to the work queue where you can check the progress of your deployments. The question mark icon launches the same “customer support” window as before. Finally, the person icon reveals a menu for viewing the user’s profile or signing out of the Control Portal.
The navigation menu and breadcrumb has changed as well. Today’s navigation menu appears as a set of drop down collections for each feature area. The breadcrumb extends past the Data Center to show you what you’re viewing.
In the new UI, navigation is done through a single menu that has all the navigation options.
The breadcrumb is now part of this new menu, as shown below. If you are using the CenturyLink Cloud sub-accounts functionality, you will now see your active account list on the breadcrumb. Once you navigate to a resource—such as a specific Cloud Blueprint—the path is shown on the navigation bar.
Hovering over the blue bar always bring the navigation menu back.
These first changes are relatively small, but lay the foundation for more substantive changes in the near future. In the months ahead, we will deliver a re-imagined way to view Groups of servers and individual server details. Here’s a design comp that our team is coding against now. Note that is also subject to change as it’s a work in progress!
The new Servers Overview page includes a handful of productivity improvements. Users will be able to navigate their entire global cloud infrastructure via the left-side window. The always-present footer provides visual (and textual) information about the progress of server and Cloud Blueprint deployments in the queue. The middle of the page highlights resource consumption and trends.
The new and improved server details page is packed with important analytics, while remaining relatively clean. Users can see trends, current consumption, and a host of details about the server configuration.
We’re excited about these changes and are moving forward with one of the most visually appealing – and functional – software experiences in the cloud today. Look for the first set of changes on October 22nd, with the rest of the site improvements happening in waves. As always, we’d love your feedback! Send enhancement ideas to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.