Designing a unified admin website for field service engineers
DESIGN BRIEF: Our customer asked our team to consolidate half-a-dozen back-end UIs for administering the CPOF system into a unified website for system administrators and field engineers.
USER CHARACTERISTICS: Field service engineers (FSEs) are sys-admins who handle back-end administration of all Army Battle Command Systems. They set up battle systems on Army-administered networks, manage user accounts, handle data integration issues across different systems and schemas, handle patches and upgrades, and monitor and troubleshoot system health and performance. Often they are the only experts available to train front-end users how to operate their systems. They span a wide range of professional expertise, from computer scientists trained to investigate issues at depth, to technicians who can apply detailed sequences of known troubleshooting steps but might have no idea how to begin investigating less common problems.
UI & UX CHARACTERISTICS: During almost a decade of deployment, the interfaces for administering this system emerged in an ad-hoc way. Different teams of internal developers and sub-contractors designed different interfaces with minimal coordination among them. The resulting set of back-end interfaces looked something like this....
The only "unified" point-of-entry into this system was its documentation, which had been written by different contractors and was delivered and stored in separate systems (so it wasn't easily searchable).
DESIGN CHALLENGES: Our biggest challenge on this project was to truly integrate and re-design these systems, instead of simply creating a web framework and re-implementing each of the existing interfaces in a separate section of that framework.
Our customer had challenged us to design the system so that it could be administered by any smart person who could read a manual and had a basic aptitude for troubleshooting. The presence on our team of so many expert users of the existing administration system -- many of whom were developers (and therefore have a much more informed and nuanced troubleshooting approach than the "average" person) -- meant we were at risk of designing a system more for ourselves than for our intended users.
- Integrate and re-design to meet high-priority user needs.
- Design for a future-user, not ourselves.
- Develop a modern, striking, simple-to-use front-end.