The Challenge: Drivescale, a Silicon Valley startup specializing in composable infrastructure (since acquired by Twitter), was concerned that the user experience of their product was too difficult to use and prevented users from fully recognizing the product’s power. Drivescale came to us to create a user experience that would not only be intuitive, but also reflect the power and flexibility of their product. In a three month timeframe, we applied lean UX research techniques to quickly learn about their users, reimagine their UX, and create a brand new product user experience.
With complex domains, it’s especially important to quickly understand the domain and how the product is supposed to work. We immediately immersed ourselves with key members of Drivescale’s team: the CTO, CPO, and VP of engineering (who essentially built the product), to learn the domain and understand what they felt was most important about their product as well as caused the most concern. Their goals were clear: we need to make this tool way more intuitive and also make it much clearer what value this tool provides.
With a clear understanding of the client’s perspectives and goals, we began our user research. We used a contextual interview approach with current Drivescale users to really understand who used the product and how they used it. Our research changed some basic assumptions about Drivescale’s target users. The team had assumed their personas mapped to functional roles (IT admin, IT manager, and security admin). We found that their personas actually differentiated around experience: new/inexperienced users who rely on the GUI and long term, advanced IT admins who typically create customized scripts that utilize the API. We also learned in more detail which aspects of the user experience consistently caused the most significant pain points.
Understanding the users’ pain points with the current product directly translated to our design priorities/guiding principles for the next UX: help users get the job done easily, provide a helping hand, and give the users full control. These became the basis for re-imagining the product’s conceptual model, one built around three core functions: creation, monitoring/management, and debugging.
With the conceptual model established, we started iterating designs, starting with low fidelity sketches and evolving into higher and higher fidelity based on constant back and forth with the Drivescale team and several usability walkthroughs with target users. After 20-some iterations, we landed at a complete wireframing of the new design.
Our last step was to add visual polish, to give the UX a professional look and match Drivescale’s existing branding. This also involved several iterations with the stakeholders as we experimented with different approaches around color palettes, fonts, and visual styles.
Good UX requires real process and startups operate in an environment requiring results “yesterday.” In this challenging environment, we successfully applied our user-centered design approach to Drivescale’s complex problem space to provide a UX that optimized for simplicity and power.