Cloud Computing is the next generation of computing. The trend towards increasing adoption of delivery platforms, such as mobile and ubiquitous technologies, make implementation challenging. The marriage of cloud and mobile technology demands attention from end users if it is to be the new “normal” mode of web service delivery. As more companies embrace cloud computing, end-user experience challenges can be mitigated with good UX practices and general guidelines.
As early as 2003, Forrester Research predicted a trend in both the mobile and cloud based web services delivery. Today, companies are beginning to set cloud occupation goals. We will see a change in service delivery from traditional packaged software to a wider audience packed in the form of web services, allowing for software liberalization to the masses. This will change how end users respond and interact with services delivered in this form. Companies will need to consider design for a universal audience who may not have the esoteric skillset of past professional users. Forrester analyst Glenn O'Donnell writes, "cloud plus mobile is a classic more than the sum of its parts combination." This disruptive paradigm will become a challenge as we ideate a sustainable user experience in the cloud.
From a UX perspective, we need to transcend the general principles of a good user experience: satisfaction, effectiveness, efficiency, learnability and memorability. We also need to infuse what I will call Cloud-Aware User Experience Thinking. That is thinking about the transformed environment of the cloud and the user expectations in this new space. This includes a keen understanding of the following:
- Software as Service (SaaS): What it is and what it means for the end user?
- Universal Design & Service Liberalization: The impact of web services liberalization and what it means for the collective wider scale of users.
- Value of Service Delivery: Expectations of the value of web services
- Privacy, Security & Trust: Expectations of privacy, security and building cloud trust.
- Flexible User Interfaces: Delivery of cloud services to multiple platforms and devices
- Social, Collaborations: Leveraging and fusing the social and collaborative ideals into web service delivery.
Cloud Computing and the New User Experience
Cloud computing is a disruptive model for enabling convenient, on-demand access to configurable shared computing assets and resources. This includes servers, networks, data storage space, applications, and other services. It is distinct from the World Wide Web. It leverages the web to offer a new way of service packaging and delivery. Cloud delivery means service providers have minimal interaction with the user and as a result can focus on quicker service delivery. As the level of connection between traditional service providers and end users erodes, optimal UX design becomes even more important. Users need to be self-sufficient as well as learn and grow with little to no service provider support. Users also require a strong sense of safety in a space that seemingly often undermines such necessities of privacy, security and trust.
What this means for User Experience and Design
As traditional UX evolves to accommodate new technologies, we must understand the changing landscape, conditions, and user expectation. This is challenging but not necessarily daunting. Ensuring an optimal sustainable user experience will determine both long and short-term adoption and growth of web services as traditional software offerings transforms to SaaS. Fusing the prevailing ideals of user experience and sustainability one can address the key ideas for building the right Cloud User Experience.
In my next article, I will take a deeper look at the following topics as we examine a more evolved user experience in the clouds. The article will address the following UX challenges.
- SaaS: From traditional software to SaaS.
- Universal Design & Service Liberalization: Designing to a wider scale of users.
- Value of Service Delivery: Context of service value and what it all means for cloud computing.
Taken together, this and subsequent articles will help expand UX thinking and help us as professionals to understand the broader scope of what it means to design a cloud user experience.