Ryan VanDyke
Product design leader & manager

re:Invent service launch

The four month sprint to launch AWS Control Tower

Challenge

Create a new AWS service and launch it for re:Invent 2018, a learning conference AWS hosts in Las Vegas the week after Thanksgiving each year for the global cloud computing community.

Objective

Help enterprises migrate to the cloud faster with a well-architected environment that follows best practices. With over 80% of enterprises having little familiarity with AWS it can take weeks or months for a company to figure out how to use AWS in a well-architected manner, often making mistakes along the way such as not securing S3 buckets (document and data storage containers) that are found on the web.

Team

Myself as UX lead, a director of product, a software development manager, a new UX designer that I hired (and manage) that joined mid-project, an ever growing team of software development engineers, and stakeholders that included business development, system administrators, Principle UX designers, UX researchers, Vice Presidents across multiple service areas, and of course, some of our most trusted customers that we sought insights from as the project progressed.

Discovery

While chaotic, the team knew what it represented.
While chaotic, the team knew what it represented.

Design sprint workshop

While the mock press release laid out the vision for the new service (learn more about Amazon’s working backward process), we needed to rapidly identify what the customer experience could be in the 4 months we had to design and build. Flying in all core stakeholders in to Seattle from Boston & Palo Alto, I facilitated a design sprint workshop, in which story mapping took the forefront to identify the critical aspects of the user experience, the underlying requirements, and technical considerations that impacts scope. This enabled the team to create a shared understanding of what was being technically proposed and enough for leadership to see what we would be launching with at re:Invent.

re:Invent service launch

Generative research study

Coordinated by AWS UX research and facilitated by the principle UX stakeholder, a scrappy research study was conducted to better understand enterprise customer needs and challenges.

re:Invent service launch

Persona & journey map

AWS’s cloud administrator persona was customized for this service’s customer challenge. The journey map identifies current customer pain points during on boarding to AWS using best practices. Both created by the principle UX design stakeholder and informed by discussions with system administrators, customers, and the generative research study.

There’s a lot to consider for enterprises on-boarding to AWS
There’s a lot to consider for enterprises on-boarding to AWS

Defintion

Quip has become a popular tool within AWS for collaboration
Quip has become a popular tool within AWS for collaboration

Defining requirements through user flows

Leveraging the outputs of the discovery phase I created a number of flow diagrams which were iterated upon frequently within the span of several days, often jumping up to a whiteboard to iterate faster with specific developers on the team. This enabled the team to make rapid decisions on what was in or out of scope for the re:Invent launch.

Though eventually decided as out of scope for re:Invent the wireframes featured
visualizations and charts for administrators to get a quick glance at their environment.
Though eventually decided as out of scope for re:Invent the wireframes featured
visualizations and charts for administrators to get a quick glance at their environment.

Extending the flows into low-fidelity wireframes

A set of low-fidelity wireframes were created to give the team exactly what the needed as they needed it through the use of Sketch and Invision, allowing for rapid iteration and frequent collaboration.

Develop

Invision proved to be an invaluable tool and a single source of truth for UX behavior and interaction design requirements.
Invision proved to be an invaluable tool and a single source of truth for UX behavior and interaction design requirements.

Moving to hi-fidelity design

Working collaboratively with stakeholders, technical writers, designers, and developers, the hi-fidelity design moved and iterated rapidly as requirements, leadership & stakeholder feedback, and constraints became clearer and defined. I involved a new UX designer at this stage to ramp them up with AWS UX design and the team.

re:Invent service launch
Screen capture from Webex, which the researcher used to give participants
control of the prototype.
Screen capture from Webex, which the researcher used to give participants
control of the prototype.

Usability testing 

With support from a researcher within the core AWS UX research group a usability test was conducted using the Invision prototype. The UX team worked with the researcher to define the type of participants to screen for the study along with the study plan defining the tasks and areas to probe with questions. The team was able to observe a few of the sessions while the researcher created a final report and videos that identified areas of opportunities where the feedback could be directly applied in our preview release as well as the future general availability release.

“My expectation here is that I’m setting something up? Or am I getting an overview here? I’m not sure. It’s either an overview or a setup at the end … This needs to be decided as a setup wizard or overview.”

John

re:Invent service launch

Iteration

Invision Freehand was used while in this phase of the project to rapidly iterate on changing requirements and research feedback to drive consensus on the proposed customer experiences.

Deliver

re:Invent service launch

UI specification

While a HTML prototype was built early on in the development process to help the development team, Invision continued to be a source where developers went to for the latest guidance as requirements evolved.

re:Invent service launch

Content specification

While the team worked closely with a technical writer throughout the project which involved frequent updates to the high-fidelity designs in Invision, I created a master spreadsheet in Quip to track changes, updates, and implementation status in the beta environment close to launch.

re:Invent service launch

Task and issue tracking

While sitting in the same space of the development team allowed me to talk with them on a daily basis, a homegrown AWS issue tracking system was used as the primary mechanism to track updates including new features And bugs. I would create issues when I saw minor UI issues or an opportunity to improve the screen breakpoint behavior at different browser resolutions.

re:Invent service launch

UX project tracker

While not specific to this project I use Confluence to manage and plan project ownership at a high level within my design team, helping anticipate upcoming projects and manage workload between the team.

re:Invent

Andy Jassy on stage during his re:Invent keynote where he announced AWS Control Tower (video below; jump to 43:44).
Andy Jassy on stage during his re:Invent keynote where he announced AWS Control Tower (video below; jump to 43:44).
re:Invent service launch

“This is a much easier way, with just a few clicks and a GUI for you to be able to manage your multi-account secure environment and your landing zone on AWS… this will save you a lot of time.”

Andy Jassy

4
Man-years of development
82
Invision history mode versions
1000+
Sign-ups in the first 72 hours

“This is my favorite announcement so far. Managing security guardrails across accounts is a major headache. Hopefully with AWS Control Tower we can make this easier.”

Jared Naude (@JaredNaude), reaction tweet

Evolve

This is just day 1

AWS Control Tower will rapidly evolve as we learn from our customers and work towards a general availability release in 2019. Beyond the basic metrics the team will be closely measuring and watching how customers extend their base AWS environments, repeat dashboard engagement, frequency of guardrail violations and actions taken afterwards, and of course, direct customer feedback.

Learnings (so far)

  • Change management is tough, I felt I was juggling balls of fire at times during the project while shielding as much churn as I could from my design team.
  • AWS leadership has an incredible attention for detail, I wasn’t expecting scrutiny of the UX templates copy-write date for example, and will need to account for more design team for fit-and-finish to meet their expectations.