There is a notable change in the upcoming CDAP 6.1 release: a new landing page. This new page presents users with an organized view of the CDAP accelerators and the workflows they support. It replaces the Control Center as the first page users see after opening CDAP.
The Control Center is still accessible from the main menu panel, right above the “Namespace Admin” link, in the lower half of the menu.
The new landing page reflects the evolution of CDAP: from primarily addressing the needs of Java and ETL developers to meeting the user cases of a larger number of enterprise users with varied technical competencies.
Historical usage of CDAP
CDAP was originally conceived as a platform which gave developers a framework to create and manage data applications, while removing the complexity related to governing and managing infrastructure and integration. It also addressed the needs of engineers who built data pipelines and wanted a platform that helped them manage the complexity of Hadoop, while supporting activities such as managing, scheduling and monitoring data pipelines.
Control Center was designed to provide a developer-centric view, where users can browse and monitor applications, datasets, etc. created using CDAP. Each of these entities are represented as cards. Relevant metrics related to performance and usage of the entities are surfaced to the user.
The Control Center page displays how CDAP infrastructure is organized and architected, while surfacing some of the semantics intrinsic of the code: for example, cards labeled as “applications” represent both uploaded applications and data pipelines.
The user can also view and monitor activities related to data, which in the CDAP world are referred to as dataset. Programs (what power and run those applications) are displayed in the details view. Relations between datasets and programs and applications are also surfaced. In Control Center, user can access, metrics and metadata related to each of the entities.
A broader audience
Much has changed since the Control Center was conceived and launched.
In the last few years, CDAP has morphed from an API-driven platform to a UI-driven interface, where technical and non-technical users can accomplish complex tasks using simple point-and-click interactions.
CDAP users have grown from a limited number of highly technical users, to a large base which includes technical and non-technical users within the enterprise ecosystem.
At its inception, CDAP focused primarily on Java developers. These users, mainly leveraged CDAP exposed APIs to build applications. The interface was used to monitor and manage those applications.
Today, non-technical users like data analysts, may use CDAP to accomplish tasks such as cleaning data, and then building a simple data pipeline to process it. These users are not interested in understanding how APIs work, the intricacies of how their pipeline is run, or what are the mechanisms that allow the data to be processed. They are focused on their tasks.
Technical users are still able to use CDAP to perform highly advanced tasks. For example, ETL engineers can build complex data pipelines using custom scripts as well as a number of advanced options. For them, the complexity is available, if needed. Their workflows and goals may be different from a non-technical user, but the need to achieve and accomplish tasks is not.
CDAP UI has enabled any user to accomplish tasks which traditionally require a deep tech knowledge. Giving people the ability to accomplish more tasks using point-and-click interaction, has widened the range of type of roles using CDAP: from ETL and application developers to business analysts and data scientists.
This new wider audience has changed how CDAP is used and perceived: if technical users may think of CDAP as a platform, non-technical users view it as a collection of tools where specific tasks can be accomplished.
How CDAP users changed the design of the landing page
The continuous effort to improve the design by better understanding our users ultimately changed how we thought about our own product.
We conducted user testing which highlighted that our new users felt confused by the overall organization and the lack of clear calls to action in the Control Center. We also received feedback from customers and users in the field, which made it clear that we needed to start re-thinking about the first page users see when opening CDAP.
Early designs of a new landing page, focused on the idea of giving the user a platform-view of the CDAP: we exposed different metrics, and highlighted performance. Several rounds of revisions and discussions, saw the inclusion of “jumping points” organized by tasks. But still, the results had a dashboard feel, with a high level of complexity.
A discussion with a customer offered a different perspective. The C-level exec wanted their fresh-out-of-college analysts to be able to cleanse some data, with minimal friction. We were told that “this is how CDAP is being used anyway”.
That feedback made us think about how to reduce ALL friction, and simplify the experience to the lowest common denominator.
We realized that users have been using, and thinking about CDAP in ways that were different from our own perception of CDAP as a platform
The new design of the landing page represents our ongoing commitment of making complex tools usable by leveraging user mental models and design best practices.
It presents the user with simple and clear options which map to the questions and tasks our users want to accomplish when opening CDAP.
CDAP is the place where a Business Analyst can wrangler data, or where an ETL engineer can integrate it; a data steward can explore and govern metadata, or an IT administrator can monitor operations and manage the system.
The new landing page gives clear entry points to these users and their workflows. The design maps to the goals and activities they want to achive, and creates an intuitive user experience.
CDAP has been lowering the technological barrier and enabling non-technical users to approach technical tasks that have traditionally required specialized engineering staff.
CDAP was conceived as a platform for developers, but the introduction of point-and-click interactions has widened its audience, and widen the user perception from platform to collection of tools.
The new landing page is designed thinking about a new set of users and their mind set when they open CDAP. It will be available in the upcoming CDAP 6.1 release.