The computing power that runs the world is hidden away in data centers that few people get to see. While many data centers are lights-out operations most of the time, people are still needed to update them, keep them running, and prevent and resolve outages. Those people need to know where their critical assets are in the labyrinth that is their global data center network. They need to know when areas get too hot, or get so cold and humid that condensation becomes a worry.
In addition to data centers, large enterprises will also have smaller compute sites scattered across the nation or the world. Those sites are often physically unmanned with poor visibility into the health of critical systems. Operators need to know when potential issues arise and how to prioritize them.
I help solve both of those problems.
Every design challenge starts with research. I put together extensive design research presentations with photos and video inside of real, working data centers. These included profiles of specific data center operators, personas/archetypes extracted from them, and detailed notes on pain points that customers face.
Due to confidentiality concerns, heavily redacted and anonymized excerpts are available for eyes-only review upon request.
Once the context and specific challenges are understood, it’s time to start rapidly prototyping solutions. I like to use sketches to validate ideas quickly, without a lot of investment in the wrong direction.
Once I’ve put ideas in front of customers and gotten enough feedback to be confident in a direction, I produce specs for engineers to build the real thing. This frequently involves extensive annotation.
In many cases the sketch is sufficient because the visual design of reusable elements has already been defined as part of a component library or as part of the product design guidelines.
Of course, while sketches can convey functionality, if new elements are used for which I don’t already have a visual design specification, it’s important to provide fully realized mockups.
Once the appropriate specifications are produced, I work extensively with software engineers.
I write stories in JIRA, collaborate to find clever solutions to performance problems on Slack, and even contribute CSS here and there. Whatever I can do to ensure that the finished product is as good as our intentions.