Kubernetes SIG Usability

The user experience of open source

Gaby Moreno César
4 min readNov 11, 2019

It feels like a year has flown by since last KubeCon in Seattle, but believe it or not, the Kubernetes North American Conference is already next week. For those that have been following the activity of the open source community you may have noticed that this summer Kubernetes approved its newest special interest group — SIG Usability.

SIG Usability was formed in response to the growing desire of the Kubernetes community to improve the experience of its current users as well as make Kube more accessible to others that might benefit from it. Its mission is to ensure that every interaction with Kubernetes, from getting started to successful production use is seamless and positive.

As a UX Designer, I was super excited to see the community rally around this effort. I’ll be sharing a community newcomer’s perspective on the story of the forming as well as opportunities to learn more and connect at KubeCon San Diego.

The history

A year ago, I joined the IBM Kubernetes Service team and had the amazing opportunity to go to KubeCon in Seattle. I noticed during the closing keynote that User Experience got called out as one of three key themes to focus on for the coming year. Namely, how do we make it easier to deploy, expose and debug applications? How do we bake best practices into Kubernetes?

Keynote: Kubernetes: Living Up to the Hype — Janet Kuo, Software Engineer, Google

During the conference there seemed to be a theme exploring how Kubernetes can cater to the different needs of cluster administrators and developers. I always remember Ross Kukulinski’s quote on who Kubernetes was for when it first started.

“Kubernetes is infrastructure software made by infrastructure engineers for infrastructure engineers.”

Some excellent talks spoke of the common challenges administrators and developers each have when using Kubernetes and one talk in particular had run an analysis of Kubernetes questions on StackOverflow. Maybe the most surprising finding for me was realizing that 63% of the most viewed Kubernetes-related questions on StackOverflow are not solved. Furthermore, most have to do with conceptual understanding of Kubernetes and not production use cases.

Exploring Our User-Base Challenges: Getting Insight From StackOverflow‍ — Javier Salmeron, Bitnami

I came away thinking that while knowing the top Kubernetes questions on StackOverflow is an amazing step forward, we are still left wondering what the people posting these questions are ultimately trying to achieve and what opportunities Kubernetes has to better serve them.

Overall, the need for having a group within the open source community dedicated to answering these questions came up multiple times and our team was left wondering what we as UX Designers could do.

The forming

Coming back from Seattle, a few of us submitted talk proposals to KubeCon Europe on the topic of defining how such a group could work. Ultimately the solution turned out to be much simpler than that.

One day, an email from Tasha Drew started making its way around the Kubernetes Google Groups about the idea of starting a SIG UX. The email got very positive feedback from Architecture, Docs, PM, Admin, and Developer SIGs alike. Within a matter of days, it became a GitHub issue and then a draft proposal in the form of a pull request put together by Kubernetes co-founder, Brendan Burns, to be taken to the Kubernetes Steering Committee. After the initial flurry of activity, there were a few months of silence. Then in July, it was announced that the proposal had been approved and the name was formalized as SIG Usability.

SIG Usability is approved! 🎉

Getting involved

With the SIG approved, now begins the hard work. SIG Usability was formed around three key pillars: user research, accessibility, and internationalization. It’s a new group looking for ideas and contributors passionate about making an impact in the Kubernetes community.

If you will be at KubeCon and would like to learn more about SIG Usability, be sure to check out these two talks:

SIG Usability: Intro and How to Get Started

Tasha Drew • Tuesday, November 19 • 2:25pm — 3:00pm • talk details

SIG Usability: Deep Dive

Vallery Lancey • Wednesday, November 20 • 3:20pm — 3:55pm • talk details

If you will not be attending KubeCon this year but would still like to get involved, be sure to join the Slack and Google Group. Also feel free to come to one of the tri-weekly meetings and introduce yourself 👋

Last but not least, I will be speaking at the IBM booth on the topics of user research and design thinking so if you liked this article be sure to come say hi as well.

The Voice of the Customer: Building IBM Kubernetes Service

Gaby Moreno • Tuesday, November 19 • 7:20pm — 7:45pm • IBM Cloud Booth



Gaby Moreno César

Design Principal at IBM, working on IBM Cloud. Living in Austin, Texas.