EchoUser

NetApp FlashRay Full-Service UX

User Research and Design

NetApp was building a brand new flash storage solution based on a revolutionary leap in enterprise storage technology performance. This new system, named FlashRay, needed a new user experience that would enable administrator users to fully harness the power of the new technology, so NetApp turned to EchoUser to help them create the new experience.

In an end-to-end engagement involving foundational user research, conceptual design, iterative UI design based on user testing, and visual branding, we delivered a modern, simple to use, administrator user experience that reflected the game-changing performance of FlashRay.

Aligning around a core experience vision

Our first step was to align all of the stakeholders around the product’s vision. It’s common for stakeholders to be on the same page at a general level, but diving a level deeper often exposes subtle, but important misalignments. We facilitated a guiding principles activity with stakeholders to understand each stakeholder’s perspective and drive consensus on the high level design goals.

User research, personas, and user stories

With a clear set of guiding principles, we began the user research phase of the project. The newness of the FlashRay technology created an early challenge with determining the appropriate target audience to study since nobody had actually used this technology en masse. We decided to focus on current NetApp enterprise storage administrators, but focused on where these users’ needs were not being met by their current tools. The primary output of our research involved personas and a prioritized list of user-centric use cases. These served as the basis for our designs as well as usability testing later in the project.

Transitioning from research to design - conceptual model

The first step of transitioning from research to design involved creating the conceptual model for the new FlashRay experience. An effective conceptual model is critical to creating a usable experience because it serves as the foundation for the design and we expended significant effort working with the FlashRay product team to get it right before moving into more detailed UI design.

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Wire-framing, iterative design, and user testing

With the conceptual model defined, we started to generate wireframes. This was a highly iterative process where we worked closely with the FlashRay product team. We employed a process of regularly generating design drafts, reviewing them with the FlashRay team, and updating the designs based on feedback. With each iteration, we increased both the scope and depth of the designs. At strategic points in the process, we also built interactive prototypes to conduct usability tests with target users to also drive design changes.

Creating the visual design

Another large component of our design effort was to create a look and feel that reflected a specific product personality. NetApp knew they had a groundbreaking product and it was paramount that users would get that impression. In conjunction with the conceptual and wireframe design activities, we applied our branding process to identify and create a look and feel that would capture the FlashRay team’s goals. We held an internal branding workshop to identify the product traits and personality that NetApp wanted from the FlashRay project. We generated moodboards to hone in on the visual style and tone that the NetApp team wanted and then iterated on detailed visual designs to arrive at a specific UI look and feel. After defining an overall visual design direction, we crafted a style guide and library of assets to bring it to life.

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Impact

NetApp was thrilled with the final outcome. They felt it captured the unique power of the new system and would enable the new users of the system to easily and effectively operate it. Even before FlashRay was released, NetApp used prototypes based on the new UI to tout the benefits of their new technology.

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