Growing Importance of UX for Cloud

No longer a new-fangled tech service, cloud is now commonplace in many businesses with most organisations adopting cloud for IT needs across software, hardware and network bandwidth. Even more and more products and services are moving to cloud with many software packages only available via a cloud subscription. The advantages of shifting are clear, but who is looking out for the user and their experience?

Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (like networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly accessed with minimal management requirements or service provider interaction.

Various cloud service providers offer different models and deployment types of cloud services, which is why there is no consistency in the user experience. Sometimes the cloud version varies quite a lot from the more familiar desktop version. If Cloud is to be adopted by every organisation with ease, user needs and organisational goals need to be considered. There are 5 attributes which can help steer providers in the right direction. Consumers should expect the cloud to be Capable, Personal, Reliable, Valuable, and Secure. Let’s break it down.

1. Capable

Cloud consumers should expect their cloud services to have certain capabilities. The four main features:

  • Current: The cloud service should be based on the latest technology. Your service provider should ensure the cloud service stays compatible with the latest release of hardware, operating system (OS) and related software applications.
  • Platform: Consumers who use IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) solutions need to be able to define the exact hardware specifications of the service they wish to purchase. For SaaS (Software as a Service), consumers need the cloud service to be independent of the cloud hardware, OS and the like so that the service can function correctly on any device hardware and software setup.
  • Device: For a cloud service to be capable, consumers should be able to access the cloud service using any device type—fixed (hardwired) or mobile.
  • Cloud functionality: Cloud services can be considered capable for the consumers if they provide typical cloud functionality—elasticity, scalability, and rapid provisioning—that is not possible on other platforms.

2. Personal

Cloud services should allow users to change the look and feel of the user interface and customise service functionality to suit their needs. There are five main elements:

  • Accessibility: Cloud services should be accessible to consumers with a variety of needs. For instance, it should consider the needs of people with a disability.
  • Customisation: An adaptation of a software product to suit the needs of a particular audience. Cloud services should allow consumers to change their user interface to suit their needs.
  • Control: Consumers should have a sense of control over the functionality of the cloud service. For instance, they should be able to determine what cookies are set by the cloud service or be able to switch off GPS tracking if the service is accessed as a mobile application.
  • Data ownership: Consumers should have ownership over the data they store in the cloud services. For instance, if a consumer uploads pictures to a cloud service, the consumer should be able to determine how that image is used or who has access to it.
  • Identity management (access): To ensure ease of use, multiple access authentications will have to be implemented in a seamless manner so that the consumer is not aware of the number of authentication/authorisation steps they have to go through to access their applications on the cloud. One method of doing this is to have a single sign-on that is known to all applications.

3. Reliable

Pretty obvious really, it must perform as required. There are four main elements:

  • Available: The ability of a service or service component to perform its required function at an agreed instant or over an agreed period of time. Cloud users should expect high availability.
  • Responsive: Cloud consumers want cloud services to have a high degree of performance. The main performance measure is response time, which is the time it takes the service to respond to a user’s request/instruction.
  • Consistent: A cloud service should exhibit the same functionality under every situation. The service should also have no conflicts with the user device type (for instance, different types of desktops) accessing the service.
  • Transparency: The cloud service provider’s service policies and technology should be transparent to the cloud consumer organisation. Users should have access, as needed, to the cloud datacenter and have details about the cloud platform’s capabilities and planned changes.

4. Valuable

Cloud consumers should expect cloud services to provide value. The three main features that can measure this value include:

  • Savings: By using the cloud service, users will be able to save on the costs it would take to run the same application on their personal infrastructure. They may also be able to consolidate and save resources they might need if they ran the same application on their personal infrastructure.
  • User satisfaction: This measures the affective experience of the service. Obviously it should be high.
  • Utility: Cloud services will be valuable to consumers if they can provide new features that are not possible with any other IT setup. For instance, cloud services are proving to be very valuable in:
    1. Distributed computing with large datasets (Big Data Applications)
    2. Mobile/pervasive computing

5. Secure

The three main features that they are looking for in cloud services under this category are:

  • Security: The cloud service should be resistant to attacks from unauthorised users, other cloud services, malicious software, and attacks on cloud hardware and Internet networks
  • Privacy: The cloud service can prevent leakage of data that compromises the end user’s private data like personal information, financial accounts, and geo-location (if not desired by the user). To ensure a cloud user’s privacy, cloud providers authenticate or validate a user’s credentials. Tools, patches, utilities, and applications are deployed by the cloud providers to ensure the cloud user’s privacy.
  • Identity management (authorisation): The cloud service shouldn’t allow unauthorised users to access user data or execute any process. The organisation will designate an administrator who will be able to maintain the list of users and their authorisation levels.
  • Trust: Cloud consumers should have confidence in their cloud service. Trust is highly correlated with other elements such as privacy, security, and data ownership.

Lifting the standard

If you’d like to improve your cloud user experience, talk to our consultants. They’d be happy to help.