Console introduces the new concept of Interconnection, a fully-automated enterprise software and interconnection platform that enables companies to bypass the public internet and directly connect business networks to each other. The Console platform provides enterprises with better access to a global ecosystem of cloud infrastructure providers, SaaS providers and partners, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, and many others.
The premise of Console was that more and more businesses realise the advantage and benefits of direct interconnection. However, only very few companies were actually doing it. Why? After interviewing stakeholders, existing customers and interconnection experts we've learnt that direct interconnection is considered so complex that Enterprise IT and System Administrators often refer to it as ‘black magic’, that only network engineers are capable to perform. Our first mission, therefore, was to break down this notion to all the complexities within the existing process of interconnection, so that we could simplify the process, for the enterprise user.
Traditionally, interconnection is a long, manual and physical process. But even if we'd simplify the entire technical part, which is the main complexity, there is still a human aspect to the process that cannot be automated. Imagine Bill, an IT professional in a medium sized enterprise who wants to interconnect with a SaaS company that provides his business with financial tools, on which his business critically relies on. Before router configurations and BGP sessions, the first thing Bill has to know is who to contact in that SaaS organisation. Then, he'd have to convey a good business case for them to agree to the interconnection. If successful, he'd have to maintain a personal relationship in order to keep their networks connected. After listening to many interconnection stories, we've realised that before the functional requirements, if we want to create an effective solution, it will have to include a social aspect, where people and companies are present, interacting and sharing knowledge with each other, before and after their networks get connected.
Mapping the different scenarios for each key feature was essential in our process. By sharing these documents with the product manager and developers, we were able to communicate the scope of each feature, and allow the multiple engineering roles to prepare, while we work on the UX and visual language.
When designing rich, technical and complex functionality such as network operations, wireframes are crucial to the ideation process. By sketching ideas and presenting them early to stakeholders, managers and customers, we were able to better define the depth and breadth of our current product's requirements, as well as imagine future development and innovation.
During the development process we struggled to communicate the abundance of details regarding the interactions, transitions and nuanced reactions within the UX. Sketch, Principle and InVision, along with improved collaboration between design and engineering, helped us define and demonstrate all the relevant interactions, and share our work with the team, for feedback and discussion throughout the process. UI animations were also used to make demo videos and presentations for potential customers and investors.
Designing a unique product has many challenges, mainly the lack of similar points of reference. Software-defined network is still in its infancy so in many ways, we were required to create new patterns and standards in and interaction design. With an iterative approach and open communication with developers and customers, we were able to design and build significant new features every two-weeks.