Featured, Platform Design, UX
Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) is the comprehensive network management platform for data centers running Cisco’s fabric technologies. DCNM has evolved into 3 distinct flavors over the past decade and a half. The NextGen version of this product is an all comprising undertaking of merging these 3 flavors into one comprehensive offering while also standardizing user interfaces across the Cisco Data Center products portfolio, in a first of its kind design effort within Cisco.
As part of a 2 man design team, we have collaborated with multiple Cisco design teams to bring about a unified Cisco user experience, and multiple Engineering teams to ensure that the 3 flavors merge seamlessly into a single product.
Ensure that users are always fully aware of what’s going on within the complex software. Enable ways for users to click into and understand any metric being displayed.
○ Visual model:
Dealing with computer networks can get very complicated. Our effort of NextGen is focussed on representing data in visual ways to reduce the amount of data scanning currently required.
○ Consistency & Patterns:
NextGen will establish standard UI and information architecture patterns that will enable users to have reliable expectations of the UI regardless of where in the product they are.
○ Error Prevention:
On a software platform dedicated to managing mission critical infrastructure, mistakes can be very very expensive. It is our goal to go as far as we can in building UI’s and systems that help error prevention from the user.
○ Error Recovery:
Error will still occur despite our best efforts. In such cases, the product must be able to help the user recover their system by detecting such errors and then making information and rectification steps easily accessible.
○ Help and Documentation:
Network software is notoriously full of acronyms and technical terminology. It is near impossible to expect any single type of user to have full knowledge of all the little pieces. As such, our goal is to make traversing the platform easier by baking in help and documentation in seamlessly accessible ways.
Our 2 man design team began by sitting down with the 3 product teams working on the the three existing flavors of the DCNM product. We used these early sessions to build a comprehensive map of screens & features within the various facets of the product. In parallel, we also worked with the Design system team that was building the common Cisco design system to understand their system and communicate needs that we were seeing coming up in our meetings.
Post an extensive information gathering session, we worked with existing user research to redefine a high level architecture that mirrors as closely as possible, the architecture in other Cisco products. With an architecture in place, we started working through the 500 odd screens and workflows within the product, with each screen undergoing 5 stages:
○ Early design draft incorporating only a change in aesthetic over the current implementation
○ Iterate with central design team to bring standardized patterns from other Cisco products
○ Iteration with full product team to iron out inconsistencies in interaction patterns and ensure full coverage of existing functionality
○ Work with engineering teams to implement the designs in code
○ Work with scale testing teams to identify scale edge cases that might need design changes to handle gracefully.