Self-service shouldn’t mean an information void

Joel Spolsky has two UI design principles:

  1. Users don’t have the manual, and if they did, they wouldn’t read it.
  2. In fact, users can’t read anything, and if they could, they wouldn’t want to.

These ought to be core principles of cloud UI design, and, in fact, most cloud infrastructure providers do seem to earnestly be trying to hide complexity between simple, colorful UIs. (Although ostensibly simple things are often not as easy as they look. Appliance-builders and application-stack builders, for instance, usually turn out to be vastly more involved than the GUI, or even the demo, indicate.)

The bright shiny buttons are certainly inviting, and encourage a certain amount of try it and see if you like it, but for a business which is trying to figure out what cloud to go with, understanding the swathe of possible options can be a shockingly difficult exercise. What cloud providers often don’t do a very good job of explaining is what the heck it really means to use their cloud. The in-a-nutshell “this is exactly what is and isn’t going to be different from the systems and network administration you do today” explanation is simply missing.

That’s important, because it means that lots of cloud providers are missing out on the chance to differentiate themselves. Cloud infrastructure is not a commoditized service, yet, and won’t be for several years, while the technology is still immature, and features and the quality of implementation still distinguish providers from one another.

Of course, there’s the challenge: How do you do that without making people read more than a handful of words?

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Posted on February 9, 2009, in Infrastructure and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You should know that that link resulted in me reading through a huge amount of Splosky’s archive, most of 2000-2001. Good stuff, of course, but it was fun to revisit because the it’s now old enough material that it reads like a historical perspective on the period. At one point he parenthetically explains that Starbucks is a coffee chain, in case a reader doesn’t know, and that more or less set the stage for a fantastic trip through the time machine.


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