Extreme Networks is a California company that delivers end-to-end networking solutions and services for over 50,000 organizations globally.
In 2020, Extreme Networks engaged with UXReactor to visually refresh a single application. We soon diagnosed deeper user experience (UX) issues and set a more ambitious goal: to optimize the tool so that network administrators could be significantly more efficient.
Over six months, we redesigned the ExtremeCloud™ application as an intuitive, seamless decision support system.
Network administrators are now 2x faster at identifying, diagnosing, and resolving network issues.
Beyond UX, this was an experience transformation project for the client. Read on to learn how Extreme Networks is now organizing their company to compete on experience.
Imagine you’re a network administrator for a chain of coffee shops in a busy urban region. Your responsibility, among others, is to safeguard a steady stream of Wi-Fi for customers at every location.
It’s a stressful, complicated challenge.
You don’t know unless you have the tools for remote root cause analysis.
Meanwhile, time is of the essence. Users today have near-zero patience for network downtime.
If you can’t fix connectivity issues fast, it’s not just a customer service problem; it’s a vendor problem. You question your ISP, naturally. But you also second-guess your hardware. Are your enterprise-grade network devices at fault?
Extreme Networks knows this network admin issue well.
The California-based company’s ExtremeRouting, ExtremeSwitching, and ExtremeWireless infrastructure products make connectivity possible for tens of thousands of enterprise customers globally.
As a complement, Extreme Networks also develops the software to manage networks. In August 2019, Extreme Networks added a cloud-driven network management application to its portfolio: ExtremeCloud™ IQ.
With ExtremeCloud™ IQ, as a network administrator, you can tell within seconds whether a network issue stems from an Extreme hardware device — or if the problem lies elsewhere.
But it wasn’t always so simple.
When Extreme acquired the network management application from Aerohive in 2019, the product was several years old.
At the time, Extreme Networks had minimal in-house design talent. They were an engineering-first company, strong on functionality over design and experience.
Through that lens, Extreme Networks saw the outdated product as a cosmetic problem to solve. They put out an RFP for a UI refresh, and the requirements were precise: Extreme Networks wanted a purely visual clean-up.
When UXReactor won the RFP, we were transparent with the client. We would update the UI, but we’d view it as a long-term experience transformation opportunity.
From our work on Nokia’s Experience Centre, UXReactor’s team came to the Extreme Networks project with networking expertise, which gave us an advantage in quickly understanding the user and ecosystem.
We also conducted secondary research, experience benchmarking, and stakeholder interviews to uncover deeper experience issues.
The network management product was, indeed, powerful. But system administrators who used ExtremeCloud™ IQ were struggling to monitor, troubleshoot, and deal with network incidents.
Here’s what we saw:
The cause? The software framework was built in siloes so that location maps, alarms, device lists, and other critical data sources were scattered and segmented. Over time, features were added as a bandaid on the original design, which made the product even more cumbersome.
System administrators had to rely on multiple workarounds, which led to delays, regular escalations, and customer dissatisfaction.
A UI refresh would not solve those problems.
The client agreed that we needed to make network administrators more efficient by optimizing the entire software application framework.
The new ExtremeCloud™ IQ framework is simplified. In place of multiple screens, the user engages with just one.
On the single screen, ExtremeCloud™ IQ presents related elements like location, device details, alarms, and device health information, always in context.
We used location-based intelligence because it’s intuitive to users and because system administrators first monitor sites, then devices, then clients. The new view allows users to identify issues faster and drill down to specifics as the layers unfold intuitively.
ExtremeCloud™ IQ is designed to disclose information progressively. It directs the user to priority information, so system admins can focus their attention. And it guides the user to understand the root cause of an alarm.
Imagine once again that you’re that network admin responsible for a chain of coffee shops. At a glance, you can immediately see whether your areas are green (operating well) or red (in trouble).
For example, if your region is California, you might immediately see that all areas are green except for San Francisco.
You click and see that of your 60 San Francisco locations, and three are red.
Clicking into a visibly redder location, you instantly see that one of the routers is down. Because you have a floor plan view, you can even see that it’s the one in the southeast corner. The connection is lost because someone has flipped a switch.
In moments, you’ve located and diagnosed the root cause, which means you can get the network up in minutes and keep your coffee patrons satisfied.
You can also skip the concerns about your router’s performance — and feel good about the Extreme Networks ecosystem.
In redesigning the ExtremeCloud™ IQ framework, we also added functionality allowing users to simulate network changes. The application now shows the detailed impact of any change, so users can make decisions proactively without risking the network.
Finally, we simplified the onboarding process. Instead of inundating users with complex jargon and advanced functionality, we designed it to acquaint users with their new network management powers progressively.
Of course, this project was initially scoped as a UI clean-up — and we didn’t forget the visuals. As you can see, the new UI looks and feels thoroughly modern. But the visuals also support the end goal: admin efficiency.
Where the original UI was inconsistent, busy, and distracting, with too many different fonts, colors, icons styles, and other design components.
The new ExtremeCloud™ IQ is streamlined and coherent.
The user can engage with rich data visualizations without cognitive overload because the most important information is prominent.
Over the years, Extreme Networks has acquired a number of companies and products, and each came with a slightly different look, feel, and unique product behavior.
While standardizing the ExtremeCloud™ IQ product behavior, we created a product design system for all Extreme Networks applications. We wanted the overall portfolio to feel more cohesive.
The design system documents a standard method for building Extreme Networks products from the ground up. It creates economies of scale because every build and every structural change follows the same pattern. Product managers, designers, and developers have a single source of truth.
Standardization also makes users more effective.
When product behavior is consistent, they spend less time learning the product, and it feels simpler. That feeling engenders product love, and with consistency across a portfolio, brand love.
Transforming users’ experience with one product isn’t enough. To secure a lasting competitive advantage, our clients have to become user-centric to the core of their organizational DNA.
For technology-centric functions, that transformation requires a 180° shift in perspective from “This is what I know works and what the competition is doing” to “What does the user need from this experience?”
That’s why we consistently brought the user to the center of every conversation as we collaborated on ExtremeCloud™ IQ.
For example, we created a network administrator persona and we named that user “Sam”. Over time, everyone at Extreme Networks started to refer to Sam as a person we know and care about.
Bringing the user to life through a persona is just a small example of how we deliberately cultivated a user-centric mindset in our engagement with Extreme Network.
Over six months, what started as a UI refresh became a UX redesign. Ultimately, we elevated the engagement to become what we call an experience transformation project.
With Extreme Networks, we’ve evolved ExtremeCloud™ IQ from a tool with powerful features to a tool that empowers people to perform at their best.
Managing Partner and Chief Experience Officer at UXReactor, Satyam Kantamneni, explains,
The win is that the Extreme Networks team is now approaching every product question from a user, a journey, an experience standpoint.
To solidify that win, Extreme Networks has created a role for a leader whose sole responsibility is to elevate the user and customer experience (CX).
We are helping the new experience lead build her team by interviewing, coaching, establishing processes, and exporting the structure that has made UXReactor successful.
At the same time, Extreme Networks is extending our engagement on specific products and experiences.
The single most important lesson from the Extreme Networks project? The issue is rarely just UI… or features, for that matter.
Best-in-class applications are designed by teams who put users and experience at the center of everything they do.