Redesigning for a new audience
BladeCenter was originally designed as an enhancement to rack servers for large data center customers. Transforming BladeCenter for the small and medium business (SMB) market gave the team an opportunity to address a less than optimal user experience with the existing system. The team adopted a full-thrust User-Centered Design approach: expanding the User Experience (UX) team, working with target users to define needs and priorities, and then providing those features.
The team worked with experienced blade administrators to determine what they do, how often they do it, how important the tasks are, and how satisfied they are with the tasks. By reaching consensus on the 70+ user tasks and putting them in task categories, the team could identify tasks that required the most attention (low satisfaction-high importance) and structure user interfaces to map with the user tasks.
Analysis of user needs
The team gathered the top requirements for BladeCenter users and worked with these users to prioritize them. This effort helped the broader team to decide how best to drive in the user experience enhancements. Within a year, the team succeeded in making significant enhancements to the top 11 priorities and to dozens of lower priorities.
Words are key
eLearning modules to quickly teach people the concepts and to prepare for using BladeCenter S, an initial planning guide, concise initial setup steps, and other useful information.High on the list of priorities for server administrators was a requirement for complete, current, and easy-to-access documentation and instructions. So the team focused on this, developing online access to information through a Web-based infocenter,
Meet the master wizard
A major initiative was to programmatically lead the user through highly defaulted steps in a cross-systems setup "meta wizard," which made user setup nearly automatic and very simple. This tool, BladeCenter Start Now Advisor, was designed and initially developed by the usability team to facilitate both ease of use and ease of development through a scriptable development environment. The benefit of the redesign to users is immediately apparent: To complete the initial setup, dozens of context switches had been required; the team reduced them to a single one. The Start Now Advisor is highlighted in the video.
Small and medium business customers generally do not place their servers in locked data centers, it is necessary to provide some way of preventing the removal of modular hardware components from unsecure rooms. To address this requirement, the team provided an Office Enablement Kit, which includes a novel noise attenuation cage in the back as well as additional space for a local management device, tape back, and also UPS in one complete and convenient all-in-one-place package. The cage includes a hinged door that locks, thus preventing component theft.
Ongoing user feedback
The BladeCenter team contacts users at least every 3 or 4 months to get feedback on the progressing designs at various points, and to resolve the frequent design dilemmas as they periodically came up. The team also varied the formats of user feedback collection: large groups were required for the early task and user needs analysis, pairs of users were solicited for feedback for scenarios and early designs in the middle of the development cycle, and individual users were invited for verification testing toward the end of the project.
For more information
For more information about BladeCenter S, go to this page.