Do IT admins read documentation? It’s an ongoing discussion dating back to the earliest data centers. I don’t have any hard data, but my guess is that everyone does read documentation, but only when necessary – and in the world of IT, that’s pretty often.
Why is documentation such an issue? Well, often it’s difficult to use. Too detailed. Not detailed enough. Or simply sometimes, I just can’t find what I’m looking for.
These are all real limitations to documentation, but they are combined with the fact that we all need detailed technical information about the complex world of our infrastructure, applications and deployments.
Documentation is part of the user experience.
The point is that documentation is an essential part of the user experience. Even the best design can’t entirely explain something complex, so docs help fill in what can’t easily be shown, guide us through complex procedures, and shed light on functionality that may not be obvious.
But many users are simply not be ready to learn from the documentation until they have had enough of an introduction to a product to grasp its essentials, its purpose and its value.
When developing the user experience for Citrix Lifecycle Management, one of our key new offerings in Citrix Workspace Cloud, we decided that we wanted to give our users an easier way to become familiar with the product. We realized this would mean finding new and more inviting ways to introduce customers other than requiring them to read deep technical content.
We also wanted to empower them to be successful using the product, right from the start. This was especially important because Citrix Lifecycle Management is a brand-new product, so our current users have no previous experience with it. And we all know that first impressions are powerful, and lasting. We want our users to have a great first experience so they keep coming back for more.
Defining a gradient of touch points
We knew this would require a variety of media, and perhaps some rethinking of how each type of communication fit into the whole experience. So before pointing users to lengthy documentation, we first offer an elegant and intuitive design, combined with some short videos, and quickstart guides to help them complete an initial sets of tasks. The intention is to give the user a quick sense of satisfaction and an experiential understanding of what the product could do. This is how you win the hearts and minds of today’s users, including IT admins.
We started by defining a customer journey that I like to think of as a gradient of “touch points” – that is, sequential steps of experiencing the product through their first-time use. The overview page includes icons for each of the initial three steps a user must take: set up a resource location, add a blueprint, then deploy a blueprint. This gives the user a clear sense of the basics.
For each step, we start out with a lightweight video defining the product, touching on concepts, components and perhaps a few major use cases.
Next, upon entry into the product, we give them a soft landing with very clear-cut steps so they can orient themselves and learn each section of the product. When they are ready to give it a test run, we provide a clear, easy-to-scan handholding experience, in the form of a visually rich document that guides the reader through a successful first-time use of the product.
Since Lifecycle Management is a new construct for Citrix and for our users, we wanted to create something that was engaging and easily parsed, not overwhelming.
Decreasing Time to Value for Citrix Customers
One of the problems that we were trying to solve with Citrix Lifecycle Management is Decreasing time to Value for Citrix Customers. This objective applies to the services that Lifecycle Management supports, so it also must apply to Lifecycle Management itself. It’s crucial that users get up and running quickly and be successful in the end of that first experience. This should drive confidence in the product and keep them on a path to success.
What could be easier? Deploying Citrix XenDesktop on Amazon Web Services
The first concept we developed was a minimal deployment of Citrix XenDesktop on Amazon Web Services. AWS is a good first experience because Amazon takes care of all the infrastructure, so the user can focus on the deployment process, in order to have the best chance for a successful first-time experience. Citrix Engineering created a Proof of Concept blueprint that a user can deploy to see the steps involved, and the outcome of their deployment very quickly.
To assist in their first-time experience, we provide a Getting Started Guide for deploying the Proof of Concept blueprint for XenDesktop. It includes a rich visual guide to every step in the process of setting up AWS resource location, adding a blueprint, and deploying the blueprint. We guide the user through each set of menus and options, all the way through the deployment process.
We assume no prior experience, so we provide a brief writeup of the product and its intentions, which can be read in less than 30 seconds. Then, we visually lead them through the process, step by step, with the essential corresponding instructions.
At the end the customer is left with a successful deployment and feeling of accomplishment, also the perception of the experience is positive and encourages further use and trust.
Now I’m ready to read the deep documentation
At this stage, the user has a very concrete understanding of the product from an initial, successful deployment. But that’s just the tip of the Lifecycle Management iceberg, and there is much more to learn and to achieve with the service.
This is the point where many users hopefully will reach for the deep, detailed documentation to learn the product’s scope and capabilities in detail.
Citrix Lifecycle Management supports several major environments including Microsoft Azure and Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and CloudPlatform, and VMWare vSphere, as well as AWS. You can deploy several pre-existing blueprints from Citrix and Citrix partners. And you can choose to create your own blueprints, from scratch or using supplied scripts and steps. Finally, there are REST-based APIs that developers can use to retrieve and collect system information.
All this is thoroughly documented so an IT Admin can dive as deep as they wish to go.
In the end, technical documentation is a critical part of any IT product, and our documentation for Citrix Lifecycle Management is robust and detailed. Our product design, getting started and quickstart videos are a new and we hope easy way to start with this exciting new product.