Opening up Google's Cloud
While a digital darling in many spaces, Google has been a late entrant to the cloud marketplace. Up until recently, Google has been rather dependant on third-party vendors to help new enterprise users migrate their data and applications to Google's cloud.
I was part of a project to redesign a sophisticated third-party migration tool into a seamless, intuitive Google Cloud Platform experience
To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted and obfuscated confidential information in this case study. All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of Google.
UX design contract onsite with Google Cloud
I helped redesign and integrate a third-party tool for the Google Cloud Platform’s five million users.
Rapid prototyping, wire frames, personas, user journeys, redlining, informal research, cross-functional collaboration, design project management
Google has historically been behind the game in the cloud business, holding only 6% of the market share in Q1 of 2019. One of the weak links in their chain has been the lack of a robust tool to migrate cloud workloads from on-premises servers or Amazon Web Services to the Google Cloud Platform.
“Velostrata’s patented solution allows workloads to transparently migrate to the public cloud in minutes by decoupling compute from storage without degrading performance. Stateful workloads are adapted on the fly for cloud execution.”
-Issy Ben-Shaul, CEO Velostrata.
Google purchased Velostrata—a promising third-party cloud migration tool—in 2018. But they then needed to take Velostrata's unfamiliar UI and integrate it into the Google Cloud Platform.
Our team had the opportunity to:
Create a migration experience that was as quick and easy as possible
Give users the tools to migrate in the way that best worked for their organization
Design a solid tool that could be built on for years to come
The Velostrata integration team consisted of one full-time PM, one full-time UX researcher, two full-time engineers, and two UX designers, along with a dozen folks augmenting those roles in part-time ways.
The senior UX designer focused on information architecture and engineering constraints. I focused on user flows, prototypes, user interface, and visual design.
I also sat in live testing with software engineers, systems administrators, heads of IT, and data scientists. Learning to understand their specific concerns about migration was central to making sense of the features that would be relevant to them.
Scope and constraints
While designing Google Cloud's migration interface we faced several hurdles connected to engineering constraints. The business decision had been made to incorporate Velostrata in several incremental steps due to the lengthy timeline for engineering to adapt the technology to Google’s cloud.
Because we would be unable to absorb Velostrata entirely in our first phase users would need to move between three different tools’ interfaces to complete their objective. For example, they would need to log into one tool, download a file, and then deploy it in another tool. Similarly we needed them to copy a token from one interface and then paste it elsewhere.
Finding an elegant pathway for user’s to navigate this process in three months was our central task.
Velostrata's UI when acquired by Google
My first two tasks were to learn how Google Cloud was organized, and then to learn how people were currently using Velostrata to migrate.
I quickly realized that Velostrata’s UI was inconsistent with the Google Cloud Platform. Our most basic task was going to be adapting their UI to conform to the GCP’s design system.
It also became apparent that Velostrata was built to map to the backend workloads rather than the user’s workflow. I needed to work out what the various user journeys would look like and design to support their experience.
One exercise that moved the design process along was an explainer video. As an exercise in grasping the complex steps involved in Cloud Migration via Velostrata, I created this simple video that could be shared with partners. This video would eventually lay the groundwork for an alpha state tutorial introducing users to the migration process.
While it didn’t generate any actionable UI, this exercise was a turning point for me in understanding the journey we were inviting users into.
The first two steps in action
The original Velostrata UI had all user interactions take place on separate pages. When I sat in on initial testing I saw firsthand that almost all users felt lost and unclear about where they were in the process.
I dove deep into Google Cloud's existing design patterns, and kept hunting until I found a pattern that I thought could better serve our users. I focussed my criteria on the ideal design pattern:
Meaningfully grouping steps
Simplifying the process by removing all unrelated tasks, form elements, or actions
Reducing decision time by focussing on one task at a time
Emphasizing the achievements at each step to establish a sense of progress
In the end, I found that the process for connecting a Google Cloud account to an enterprise’s domain involved the user moving between GCP and their own website domain’s hosting UI. This was an ideal pattern to build off of.
By keeping all of the interaction on one page and visually chunking the process into steps and substeps, I was able to create a coherent narrative. The relief to our users was tangible and led to a significant drop in confusion and anxiety in the next round of testing.
Working through the challenges of cloud migration that relied on three separate tools was an amazing learning opportunity. Designing user flows that transitioned between tools was a new challenge for me. Setting crystal-clear user expectations was vital to a user's success. My skills in writing copy, choosing colors, and prototyping multiple visual patterns were pushed to a new level.
It turned out that sub-grouping an extremely lengthy process into meaningful chunks was easier said than done. My intuition about what steps should be clumped didn’t always pan out in user testing. But getting the breakdown correct transformed user’s experiences in testing, reducing confusion, frustration, and errors.
The tool is currently in alpha and being used with select whitelisted customers.
"It makes moving Windows VMs into Google very easy. Easily moved 2000 VMs to the cloud."
-Administrator in Computer Software for an enterprise organization (1001-5000 employees)
Apr 11, 2019 G2.com