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A Better Looking Cloud

At a record pace, corporations throughout the U.S. are turning to cloud computing to transform their organization’s data center ecosystems. In fact, in 2015, 70% of corporate workloads will be processed by cloud data centers, according to Cisco; and by 2018, that number will rise to more than 78%.

Cloud data center Portals Become Intuitive, Self-Service

“Cloud data center” is a term for a normal data center that has been dedicated to co-locating and managing servers and storage to provide cloud services.

As cloud computing and data centers have become more popular, so has the demand to access, analyze and change the cloud environment as business needs change. Initially across the industry, views into the cloud environment and how allocations and usage were performing, were adequate. Now, consumers of cloud computer information expect easy-to-use “self-service”. People not only want to view their metrics on performance tracking, load balancing, disaster recovery data, etc., but they want to control and manage their needs themselves.

Thus, it has become critical that “cloud portals” become more user-friendly, intuitive and interactive, and not just the esoteric domain of the IT department.

Customer-Facing Cloud Portal Delivers True ‘Vision’

For one of the largest providers of cloud and data center solutions, these trends are what motivated them to provide a cloud portal to their customers. While the customers had a small window of online viewing capability into their environment, a true customer-friendly portal was needed.

The client turned to MATRIX Professional Services to develop a fresh UI/UX theme and style guide that would also evolve along with their burgeoning business offerings.

MATRIX was able to bring true UI/UX design experience to complement their in-house domain expertise.

“They had a web presence that worked but was not optimized for UI/UX,” said Laura Smyrl, MATRIX Agile Delivery Manager. “Once they started to get product buy-in from market, they realized that a more appealing web presence was a viable and important marketing necessity.”

“They are a technology company, with content that is fairly technical,” said Smyrl. “Many of their customers are regional SMB businesses who don’t want to manage the infrastructure. Finding a web presence that would present the technical data accurately, but in an easier-to-use format, was desirable.” Smyrl added that customers would want to proactively know things like if their disk storage was reaching a limit, or if a newer version of load balancing was available.

80% of Design Finished Prior to Development

With all that in mind, the MATRIX Agile team began to hold kick-off meetings with client SMEs to define the personas of web portal users, and developed a backlog of user stories.

Later, UI/UX team participation was added to the daily stand-ups so that questions during development could be immediately answered. The MATRIX UI/UX team was co-located in the same geographic area, so face-to-face white board meetings were frequently employed, which greatly increased successful communication.

“In true Agile fashion, we wanted everybody at the table when you take out the story cards, and you don’t do a lot of requirements or design up front before you really know the issues,” said Smyrl. “Doing design within the scope of the story card saves time and rework later on.”

Indeed, developing the UI/UX mockup screen designs and workflows as a whiteboard activity during early sprints allowed 80% of the work to be done before passing the HTML to the waterfall development team for implementation.

UI/UX Now Embedded Within Development Process

Theme, style guide and over 50 annotated mockups were delivered and implemented on time and within budget.

The client has now embedded the MATRIX UI/UX design team along with its internal development process. Problems that were previously discovered later in the QA process, are now uncovered during the early sprints, when they are less costly to fix. This technique has been very successful in producing quality product earlier in the circle.

As far as the customers, support calls have decreased, indicating that customers can now find information more easily.

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