Learning IaC and DevOps is hard! What if your summer job was to make it easier? As the summer (and v4.10 release) comes to a successful end, we sat down with our UX intern, Zander Franks, to learn more how he did that and more with the Interactive Labs feature that he added into the RackN product.
Q: Can you tell us something about your role this summer?
Hi, my name is Zander, and I’m an engineering intern at RackN. I work on the RackN portal, our web monitoring and configuration tool for DRP. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the team for the last 7 months on a variety of projects. Most recently, I tackled most of the user-facing functionality for our latest feature: Labs, our interactive, expandable training system.
Q: What challenge were you given to solve this summer?
Digital Rebar Provision is an incredibly comprehensive and powerful tool, but it can be a bit daunting to a new user, such as an intern like myself. There are many facets of the tool that I still do not understand.
Q: How did people learn to use the Provision tool before?
The documentation we provide is a great way to learn more about these features. However, it’s not always convenient leaving the portal to consult another resource. A few months ago, I tried to solve this issue by adding tooltips and help areas to the portal. These allow you to view quick insights into the fields and functions of different objects across Digital Rebar. We also offer videos from our YouTube channel that act as walk-through guides, covering a wide range of topics. But these still suffer from the same problem: there is no single source of truth for consulting interactive, contextual help resources.
Q; That sounds like an important change. What technical issues did you have to overcome?
When I was first introduced to the concept of interactive labs, I immediately knew how immensely beneficial they would be for Digital Rebar. There were a number of design choices to make as we implemented them, however. Their appearance and accessibility through the portal went through a number of iterations. Also, the data schema by which they are encoded to be displayed in the UX was not final for almost the entire duration of the feature’s development.
The interactive guided lab modal that pops out and helps you follow along with the lab was subject to many changes, as well. This was a complicated feature to implement as we needed a common format for labs to specify their flow and the steps the user must follow to complete the lab. Getting this to read consistently in these slideshow-like pop-outs required multiple meetings, many iterations, and a style guide.
Q: Do you think the new Interactive Labs will have the expected impact?
As we have been putting the polish on the feature over the past few weeks, it has already become clear how powerful and productive it will be. The process for creating new labs has been documented. It is available to anyone who wishes to create labs using the same process we used.
We still provide our out-of-portal documentation and videos. In fact, lab content is available from within our documentation, and we are creating lab videos for some labs that can also be popped out just as the steps for a lab can.
Q: Is there something that you’re looking forward to next?
We are super excited to hear about how interactive labs will help your team understand the product better. The framework for the labs system has been made, and I can’t wait to see what content comes from it!
Check out Interactive Labs for yourself!
Labs will make it easy to learn how to use Digital Rebar to make infrastructure automation work at a massive global scale. You can check it out yourself when you start a free trial. Zander wants to hear your feedback, so please let him know if the new labs feature helps you out.