Oct 11, 2012

Design matters. Usability matters.

inap admin

This is our conference room in the NYC office.

You’re late to join a meeting in progress. As you approach, your brain hunts for context clues on how to open the door. The handles are identical on both sides; it’s not immediately clear whether you push or pull. You take a chance and pull, only to have the door clang loudly — someone walks over and slides the door horizontally as everyone in the room laughs.

I’ve personally watched that happen more times than I can count and every time the person thinks it’s their fault. That’s untrue — they didn’t blow it, the designers did.

Design matters. Usability matters.

Seemingly small interactions constantly impact our productivity and our mood, they impact your impression of a company. Design and usability are meaningful concepts, and with the addition of a newly formed team, it’s becoming a meaningful part of Internap.

In May of this year, the User Experience team was created here with the sole edict of improving the look, feel and experience of our customer-facing tools and interactions. We went on a hiring spree to bring in some of the best design & developer talent we could find and started thinking hard about what exactly user experience meant in our industry.

For a long time, it was acceptable that business software was complicated. Generally speaking, it was sold on raw functionality and the learning curve was expected to be high. Enterprise training agreements and healthy annual support contracts were the norm and all was right with the world.

Then people started using software in their everyday lives. All kinds of people. Your grandmother is on Facebook, my father has an android phone. Table stakes have been raised.

Nobody should have to use business software that is bad. The expectations of software have elevated dramatically over the last couple years and there are no more valid excuses to not have a functional, usable, beautiful application.

The hit list

First, we’ve set our sights on a ground up redesign of the customer portal. This is where you’ll go to manage your infrastructure, pay your invoices and open support tickets.

Initially, we will be supporting our Agile Hosting infrastructure and account management, and then expand functionality across the entire product set of Managed Hosting, Colocation, CDN and IP over the next several months. Our first public release is being built to function seamlessly across desktop, tablet and mobile platforms, using responsive design best practices to step down gracefully.

Along the way, we’ll be publishing a short series of posts to give you an idea of how we have approached the new portal. We’ll be talking about our foundational ideas, user personas, mistakes we made and share some screenshots that didn’t make the cut.

What is success?

Ultimately, the industry and our customers will collectively decide if we hit the mark. If it’s really great, you’ll hear about it. If you don’t, it’s because we missed the mark and produced something average.

Our goal is both external and internal. We want our staff to be impressed with our tools and excitedly show their friends. We want to attract the best employees to come work for us. We want the best customers to seek us out because they feel we’re a technology partner, not just their infrastructure provider.

A tall order? Probably. But when you feel like what you do really matters, you do your best.

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