In 2015, Microsoft Azure was working hard on making customizable dashboards for users possible. Application Insights, which resides in Azure’s portal, needed an experience for creating and editing charts and grids in the new dashboard framework. The biggest challenges would be identifying areas where our unique product overlapped with Azure’s and collaborating successfully across teams to shape a great interaction and UI experience for our users.
User research leading up to this project discovered that people wanted dashboards that they could share, customize and curate themselves. This would give them quick overviews that would help them easily and logically manage the various aspects of their applications. It would be important to provide this new experience, but also retain any preexisting patterns that previously proved successful and that users were already familiar with.
The solution for this challenge was making the creation and editing of tiles simple and congruous, as well as providing a way to filter and adjust time on charts and grids. In addition, establishing patterns for varying tile sizes gave users flexibility in layout customization. Working across teams to ensure the experience was woven together harmoniously was integral to the success of this project.
Research & Plan
New to Microsoft Azure and Application Insights, work began with understanding the domain. I collected as much information as possible by familiarizing myself with existing design patterns and consulting my colleagues. I explored how dashboards are created in other products to get a good baseline. I worked closely with the project manager to gather specifications, any steadfast limitations of the SDK, and to discuss early conceptual ideas. Working in cycles, I went back and forth with information collection and sketching to communicate low fidelity interaction concepts.
Working in sprints, I eventually produced high fidelity designs to share with stakeholders and engineers. I delivered very precise and detailed designs with development specifications for all supported tile sizes of charts and grids. I solved complex design challenges relating to the addition of new charts on a tile, the UI for editing and configuration, and the integration of our UI with Azure’s.
Unfortunately, the designs could not be validated by users before launch due to tight deadlines. If the opportunity to user test arose, I would be interested to learn many things. What is the perception of the experience overall? Are users easily able build charts and grids? How are people utilizing their dashboards? Where are their pain points?