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Simon Munro

User Experience Designers Need to Think About Cloud Computing

At first you would think that in a world cloud computing applications would look and behave the same as any other web application – after all it is the financial model for computing that has changed, not what is served up, right? For many of the large websites that we use today that is generally true – cloud computing doesn’t change much. What does change though is that applications that would normally get developed or would remain obscure because it isn’t financially viable can now be pushed out for the entire world to see, use and interact with.


One class of applications affected by cloud computing are microsites that are tactical and functionality because the cost of providing the infrastructure and support of extensive functionality is unwarranted. With cloud computing, providing richer functionality is a matter of development cost rather than hosting and long term bandwidth costs. The UX designer needs to think about extra functionality demands placed on applications that would normally not be considered – so we should expect registrations, sharing with friends, linking into Facebook, uploading and viewing of videos and so on.

High Load User Journeys

Due to the scalability of cloud computing, applications that would normally have a fairly small user base can now be extended to huge numbers of users. While we may have resolved the expected user journeys for more traditional high load applications, such as web retail and personal banking, the patterns have not settled for more familiar complex applications such as bookkeeping or sales automation, never mind the new ideas presenting themselves every day.

Unexpected Behaviour

Technical solutions to scalability problems such as eventual consistency, asynchronous operations, service degradation and apology based computing mean that the behaviour of applications will not be as expected and the UX specialist needs to carefully define the interactions to either hide effects or help the user understand why they are happening. The frustrations that many of us feel with shoddily built web based enterprise systems such as time recording and expenses (my colleagues are nodding an agreement right now) will not be tolerated by customers.

Complex Process Interaction

Cloud computing will lay the foundation for the ability to interact with more complex business processes and user experience specialists have their work cut out to ensure that, at least from the users’ perspective, things run smoothly. The existing patterns will need to be extended and the UX community is going to have to move towards a set of expected behaviours so that a vast number of users can easily find their way through a twenty step asynchronous process or change their own privacy settings.

Disclaimer: This is not a complete list and we know how bad developers are at building UIs

Simon Munro


The ‘Who Should Know About Cloud Computing’ Series

This post is part of a series of posts for non technical roles, which you can follow from the links below

Published Monday, June 21, 2010 9:38 AM by simon.munro

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