Microsoft Azure Active Directory

UX for enterprise software

Creating design guidance and patterns for identity and security experiences.

I'm responsible for formalizing UX guidance and prototyping tools to support Microsoft's Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) design, program management, and engineering teams. The initial project quickly spurred a larger design push throughout the Identity organization.

Role

UX designer, content designer

 

Scope

UX guidance and wireframing toolkit

 

Tools

Illustrator,
PowerPoint


The problem

Inconsistency

Microsoft Azure is a behemoth of a platform. The framework supports hundreds of independent extensions that can't always collaborate, resulting in a lot of unique user experiences within Azure. Azure Active Directory is no exception.

While the Azure portal was crafted to deliver a harmonious experience across a broad ecosystem of technologies, the challenge any large organization faces is a cohesive user experience. On customer visits, we got a lot of questions to the effect of, "Why does this control work one way here and another way there?"

The solution

Documented guidance and wireframing tool

The average tech company has a ratio of 1 designer to 8 program managers. Azure AD's ratio is about 1:12. The design team needed a way to scale ourselves as a resource for PMs and engineers.

What started as a two month project to document design guidance for both UX and non-UX team members quickly became an ongoing responsibility to advocate for better experiences across Azure AD.

The guidance served in conjunction with a wireframing toolkit that provided PMs and developers with everything they needed—Azure portal layouts, controls, charts, etc—to prototype their own Azure AD experiences.

Challenges

Complementing what's been done

I knew from the beginning I didn't want to duplicate the Azure framework team's guidance, but rather build off of their work for Azure AD specific scenarios. I deferred to the larger framework recommendations when appropriate and developed my own best practices to address Azure AD's main user: The IT administrator.

Prescribed vs strategic guidance

Right off the bat I established how prescriptive I aimed to make the guidelines. Smaller components and controls are best implemented with more tactical guidance, while broader recommendations best serve complex user scenarios, such as how to approach a Getting Started experience.

Prescriptive guidance on filtering controls

Broad guidance on Getting Started experiences

Brown bag session

My manager, senior designer, and I hosted a brown bag to present the work. I created a poster series to promote the event that inspired a passionate PM. He turned the Design Revolution concept into the face of a movement to improve Azure AD with actionable plans and goals. We kicked off a series of collaborative learning and feedback sessions, where we'll introduce new design patterns and concepts to the larger organization.

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The impact

"This brings a tear to my eye. This is one of the best tools a PM can have, and I know how expensive it is for you to build this stuff out."

-Azure AD program manager

 

The Design Revolution will serve as an ongoing platform to help us build a great product. The project started as creating guidance and a toolkit to hand off to Azure AD team members. It quickly became a movement to design beautiful and cohesive experiences, with tangible plans to drive change.

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