Initially created during a Down Tools Week at Redgate, SQL Clone allows users to create tiny copies – or clones – of production or testing databases.
I joined the SQL Clone team as UX Designer shortly after Redgate gave the green light for putting a team on it full time and building it. Much of my early work with the team was performing research and talking to potential customers, something Redgate puts a heavy emphasis on. I then led design and testing through to launch.
"Allison demonstrated a real passion for the craft of design; bringing empathy, problem-solving and creativity to every project she worked on."
– Matthew Godfrey, Head of Product Design at Redgate
Gatherings from research proved it was something DBAs needed to free their time of the repetitive, time consuming work of provisioning requests. But they were hesitant to give up control of the task for privacy and security reasons. In contrast, developers were excited by the idea of working with isolated, up-to-date versions of actual production data. This split made for an interesting challenge.
How could we design an experience that makes DBAs feel safe and secure with automating provision requests while also making it something easy and accessible for the developer?
"The thing about Allison that really stands out for me is her competency across the spectrum of design work.
This makes her a great asset for the product teams she works with; being equally comfortable with research for discovery as she is with validating feature ideas or putting the details on the user interface."
– Adam Parker, UX Lead at Redgate
A hybrid environment, it's front end is technically a web app, but hosted locally on a machine like software.
It needed to look and feel like Redgate's other products, following our design system, Honeycomb.
There's this concept of an Image, which is the immutable version of the database at that point in time, and a Clone.
The user has to install SQL Clone on the machine the clones are created from and the ones creating the Clones.
After research and talking to users we felt confident about the scope of the problem we were solving and for who. We wrote up some job stories, while the engineers built out the technical requirements. The next step for design was to dive in and start mapping out end-to-end flows for the product.
Once we had a solid workflow that met requirements of being able to install the software and creating clones I moved to visual design, creating interactive prototypes along the way.
There needed to be a design pattern to cater for two distinct repeatable user tasks:
The process of creating consists of a set of configuration options presented in a light UI. Once created, the things are grouped together and presented in the dark UI where user tasks are management ones.
The dashboard needed to scale in order to show dozens of images and hundreds of clones. Users found the information like server and database helpful reference for isolating images but were receptive to the idea of being able to collapse them into smaller cards to view more at once.
We tested a few different options for getting started with SQL Clone, one with a sample project they could play with and another with iconography that helped explain to the user the steps they needed to take to get started.
Redgate has a program called Friends of Redgate who get VIP treatment and discounted software (among other cool perks) for participating in user research, testing, and being brand ambassadors.
So we were able to build up a sizable group of DBAs and developers pretty quickly to provide early and ongoing feedback.
I kept up communications with this group with a Slack channel, Intercom, and Email. This was new to Redgate, and users liked how easy and informal it was, and liked talking to the designers and engineers. I believe this made them more receptive and excited to participate in surveys and testing sessions (we also paid them for their time).
I led these testing and discovery sessions with users on a weekly basis, where I'd pull in a dev to 1. answer any technical questions I couldn't and 2. build empathy on the team for our users.
One of the major themes we got from testing was that they'd like to be able to schedule images and clones.
We started exploring user friendly ways to handle this.
"Allison challenged and changed the status quo for product design in our organisation.
We now have a product that not only looks and works like modern software should, but takes a significant amount of technical complexity and distils it into something that is clear and comprehensible for our customers."
– Jonathan Roberts, Tech Lead at Redgate