I joined Redgate software while living overseas in the U.K. It was an opportunity to work with a group of really talented designers and engineers solving very technical, complex problems for our customers, primarily developers and database admins.
The core technology behind SQL Clone was created during a Down Tools Week and allowed users to create tiny copies – or clones – of production or testing databases. I joined the team as their designer shortly after it was given the green light to built it into a product.
"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
Most of my early work on SQL Clone was performing research to learn more about the problem space and our users. I encouraged my product team to join in on the calls and maintained a board in our space where we kept track of questions and new things we learned about our users.
Gatherings from research proved SQL Clone was something DBAs wanted to free their time of the repetitive, time consuming work of provisioning requests. But they were reluctant to a completely automated or self-serve model for privacy and security reasons. In contrast, developers were excited by the idea of access to isolated, up-to-date versions of actual production data. The design needed to consider an experience that would cater for both of these end users.
"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
After talking to potential customers the team felt confident about the scope of the problem we were solving and for who. The engineers built out the technical requirements and I began mapping out end-to-end flows for the product.
Once we had a solid workflow that supported the installation of the software and creating clones, I identified key views that needed to be designed and started sketching wireframes.
I moved to visual design and created a clickable prototype so we could get something in front of users as soon as possible to see if the workflow was clear and conceptually, they understood what the product was trying to do. The more validation we got from these users, the more I pushed the fidelity of the prototype.
The way SQL Clone works is the user installs the software on the server and the machines that will be creating the clones. This one-time installation process had some technical constraints and design considerations, like requiring the user to have certain permissions and perform manual tasks.
Once the software is installed, for the user to create a clone they have to create an image first, which is an immutable snapshot of the database at that given time.
There needed to be a view for creating and managing those images and clones and a repeatable UI component for what they looked like. That view needed to scale in order to account for dozens of images and clones.
Users found information like the server and database helpful for filtering images and were receptive to the idea of being able to collapse them into smaller cards to view more at once.
I designed and tested variations of the welcome screen users landed on after successfully installing SQL Clone. In one version, they could jump in and clone a sample database, experiencing the value of the product right away. In another version, I illustrated step-by-step instructions.
The sample image was so successful with users that it also inspired a demo environment on the product page at red-gate.com so potential users could interact with the product before even downloading or installing it.
After launching the product into beta we continued talking to users, observed them using the product, and welcomed their ideas for how to improve it.
One of the most requested features was scheduling. DBAs wanted to automatically create images at the same time every week, since it’s the most time consuming and repetitive task. Another user-driven feature we started exploring was image modification, so users could mask out sensitive data.
"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