Take a walk with me because I’m drowning in goo. Step one, pick a reasonably complicated tool and look at the management interface. For example I’m looking at a 802.1x solution right now and there’s a row of 8 buttons at the top with drop-down menus. Almost every menu has its own sub-menu, and some of those have sub-menus. That’s one tool, and not even a very comprehensive one since it only does 2-3 things.
Hop over to, oh I don’t know, let’s pick on your ticketing system since I feel like those are nearly universally abusive and reviled, often taking longer to work through than the change itself. The one I’m staring at has 18 menus, and about a third of the options under them have sub-options. For anyone foolhardy enough to actually attempt a change, there are 19 fields and 10 sub-pages.
I just sighed. Literally, as I typed that, I sighed.
Have you seen Cisco ACI? There are 7 major buttons at the top of the page. Sounds reasonable. I can handle 7. Hah!
Editing an End Point Group (EPG), a fairly common task, is 4 layers down. Checking LLDP neighbors? That’s 5 layers down, and they’re 5 entirely different layers. You’re not choosing between seven paths, you’re choosing between 7 *trees*. And this is entirely glossing over the CLI (I don’t want to beat Cisco up too badly for ACI in this post, though I reserve the right to do so in the future).
Let me skip over what the Network Management System (NMS) looks like. Or the logging and netflow solutions. Or management consoles for things like load balancers, wireless controllers, and firewalls. They’re all the same – multiple trees of highly specific and technical details, laid out in a manner that makes the most sense to the UI designer.
But here’s the rub: UI designers think differently. Not just from the folks who use their products, but from each other. Even on the CLI. That’s why Cisco puts VLAN configurations under the interfaces, and Brocade puts interface configurations under the VLAN. We’re sort of stuck either intuiting where a task might begin and flow to, or writing out detailed notes. Looking things up in the documentation is worth a shot, and in an effort at optimism I’ll say your mileage may vary.
I’m not sure I have a useful solution here, but I might.
1. BFVs (Big Fun Vendors) – Can you please coordinate your GUIs? I totally get that this is an outrageously difficult task, which is why I have a #2. But it would be great to see the same logic, and even the same style, across all the products.
2. Because #1 is probably a logistical impossibility, I propose implants. We’re already sort of cyborgs today. I mean think about the last time you left for lunch and realized you left your cell phone (an antiquated and comical name for our pocket computers) at your desk. You went back. Don’t lie to me, I know you went back.
We stick machines in our bodies to keep our hearts ticking, we wear electrical shock pads on our nerves to manage pain, we fasten stupid looking goggles to our face to better view online maps and play video games …. Well, I want something stuck in the side of my head that lets me remember the reason I walked from the living room to the bedroom so I can stop standing there frowning for 30 seconds before shrugging and walking back to the couch like a dejected Homer Simpson. Call it cybernetics, call it performance enhancing … bolt-ons, whatever.
But setting aside my own personal doofishness, the mounds of parenting tasks, bills to pay, and all the other stuff life is throwing at me and re-focusing on GUIs … it’s getting worse. They’re almost fractal at this point. If someone reading this has invented some doohickey that lets me actually retain all the training I get on this stuff so I don’t forget day 1 as I learn day 5, sign me up because I’m getting my ass kicked here.