I’m a great believer in the Cloud, particularly Amazon Web Services (AWS), and the range of benefits it brings for companies of all sizes. But I’m going to be completely honest here, the cumbersome experience of interacting with the AWS console is the weakest link in the AWS offering.
While you are free to label me as a misinformed contrarian, I only vocalise this thought in an attempt to illustrate how this is an excellent problem to have. I believe it is imperative to consider design as a key enabling force. Design drives user empowerment and removes obstructions to user inertia, in turn maximising product uptake.
Just a few thoughts and concepts:
AWS as an integrated platform of tools needs to feel like a single page web application
User disorientation is strongest when an entire view is disrupted in order to navigate to new content. Common elements between views (typically navigation bars) need to remain fixed in view as they frame the pages focal point and help keep the user grounded during longer page/content load periods.
A seamless single page web application also would demonstrate congruence with AWS’ higher level message, as a seamless scalable platform for web applications.
Help users navigate
When I log in to the console I dislike where I land. Strip away the nav-bar, footer and side-bar, and you find yourself with a focal point of 55 services, each one with its own bespoke graphic, title and description.
What would I rather see?
A left sided navigation controller similar to this:
Grouping products gives view economy. The user will have access to all 55 services while only needing to visually digest 7 groups (at most) on page render. Grouping also provides the user with hierarchy, driving the inference or cue to navigate.
Help users find
I think a smart searching feature would be a massive enhancement to the AWS console. I remember when Apple introduced Spotlight Search in a major Mac OS X revamp, a simple cmd + space keyboard shortcut became my launcher for anything and everything. Implementing a similar keyboard shortcut enabled search into the left-sided controller could be a big win.
Similar to spotlight search, it would be a strong feature to get search results across the entire console (services and their subviews). Imagine hitting a keyboard shortcut, typing ‘instance’ and hitting enter to dive into ‘EC2’ > ‘Instances’. The console would become powerful and incredibly expressive.
Feature rich controller
Further enhancing the feature set of the left sided controller could be a strategically strong move. Take this concept for example:
When diving into a service, navigation becomes less of a primary concern. We have given the user a contextually accurate view aligned with their priority and free of clutter. The AWS Cube graphic would become a universal button to access navigation without any disruption to the main rendered content.
I use AWS everyday and I’m an advocate for what it’s enabled us to do – build and ship advanced scalable applications. I concede that properly re-imagining the AWS Console would require more time and some serious design budget, but I see no wrong in coaxing the conversation around what we would like to see as an active community of users.
We are part of a talented community driving creative solutions to modern problems, and between us I believe we have all the ideas needed to make the console truly brilliant. So why not share your thoughts. Let’s brainstorm!