Rohan Singh

Enabling Collaboration

I drove the user experience for enabling content sharing, our highest requested customer feature.

The new Sumo Logic collaboration framework

About Sumo Logic

Sumo Logic is an industry leading cloud based log management tool. It's a swiss army knife for developers and ops personnel to monitor and troubleshoot their applications.

Organizations use Sumo Logic to monitor their applications and troubleshoot outages, security intrusions etc. Our users run queries to analyze their logs, analyze their metrics data, and visualize it all in dashboards.

The Challenge

The key motivator for this project was the highest requested customer feature in Sumo Logic - a better content collaboration framework. The sales team reported that key customers were at the risk of churning because of poor collaboration capabilities.

Highest requested customer feature

Our customers had 3 main pain points that forced them to use alternative tools -

Users were creating shared Sumo Logic accounts or using collaborative online tools to share links to dashboards and search queries. This had a severe impact on their time to troubleshoot a problem, because different members of a team could not update a shared dashboard or search query during a "firefighting" operation.

Moreover, novice and infrequent users were often stuck in Sumo Logic because they couldn't find content created by expert users or other members of their team. This increased their frustration with the product and was reflected in their low NPS.

My Role

I was the lead UX designer on this project. I worked closely with Product Management and Engineering to define the success criteria for this project, ensure its successful Beta release, and iterate continuously on user feedback.

I took the results from a collaborative brainstorming session to define the information architecture and core user flows. I created prototypes to explore different solutions, assisted in user research to validate the solutions, and iterated on the feedback.

The Results

The Design Process

Understanding the problem

I worked with a Product Manager to understand the customer pain points in depth. We scoured through comments in the customer portal, the NPS comments around this issue, and support tickets. We spoke to a breadth of users from admins in large organizations to developers in 15 person startups.

We uncovered several core customer needs:

  1. Users want to group shared content by context. For example, by project or application or team
  2. Users want to have team ownership of content i.e. the ability for multiple users to edit content
  3. Expert users want to help their team mates discover valuable content

The current sharing model was severely broken. We discovered that our users were using innovative methods to circumvent the problem.

  1. They saved raw queries in a Google Doc and shared it with their team.
  2. They saved links to Dashboards in a shared Wiki. It was specially useful to help onboard new users in the team.
  3. A team would create a shared account so multiple users could login with the same email and edit saved search queries as needed.
  4. Some users, mostly novice users, had no idea there was a library where they could go see what other users had published.

Old content library


Adapting collaboration for Sumo Logic

Before exploring collaborative tools, I wanted to define a set of design principles to make sure our final collaboration model adapts to Sumo Logic's use case. I based the design principles on the initial user research we had done:

  1. Optimize for visibility of shared content
  2. Don't let administration get in the way of collaboration
  3. Adapt to different workflows

Analogous product research

I started with exploring online collaboration tools that have built entire businesses around collaboration e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Sharepoint, and Egnyte. Each product was unique because it emphasized different aspects of collaboration:

Analogous products

Design evolution

How does a user share content?

In the old model, users could only publish content to the entire organization. However, our research clearly showed that they cared more about sharing content with their teams.

My initial flows focused on understanding how users would share content from within Sumo Logic.

Flows for different sharing paths

What can users do with shared content? (Access control)

In user interviews, we discovered that there were 2 competing user needs

There was a strong push to cater to large paying customers and make permissions very granular. The problem with this approach was that it made sharing objects complex and confusing.

I made the case that although the admins and economic buyers would love to have the extra control, the majority of our users will be using a simple and open sharing model.

Hence, we adopted a guiding principle for addressing both these cases

Simplified sharing options for majority users

Administrators and security experts who wanted more control over sharing could access the "Advanced View". That let them control if users could share the item with other users.

Advanced sharing for administrators

How does a user discover shared content?

Helping users discover useful shared content was the biggest challenge of this project. Enabling users to share quickly and easily was only one half of the puzzle. We had to help users find the content shared with them.

Some of our expert users were already sharing a lot of content but the old model had its drawbacks. To find content in the library, users had to know exactly who shared the content and navigate to their folder.

Old content library structure

As a workaround,

Hence, for design explorations, I had 3 main goals

Design explorations

My initial proposal focused on helping users build collaborative team spaces. The 2 highlights of this new content library framework were:

The reasoning behind this view was

  1. Users could create folder around projects or teams. Other team members could add to this collective pool and novice uses could treat it as a wiki.
  2. User could see all the content in their organization thereby letting them discover content they might have missed out on in the grouped user view.
  3. Users accustomed to the old view could still search for content created by specific users via filtering.

A consolidated view

To ensure this view was not overwhelming, I introduced the concept of tag based filtering. Users could filter this view using filters like "Created By: User X" or "Content Type: Dashboards".

Search filters explorations

Search filters

Testing this model

We wanted to test this hypothesis. I worked with engineering and product management to ship this to internal users so they could play with it and tell us their experience using it.

Our primary mode of feedback was through a Slack channel. I also conducted one on one interviews with internal users, primarily developers, to get a first hand view of their interactions.

We quickly learnt that the new model was not working out for internal users. Many user's first time reactions to the new view were:

User feedback in Slack

Although users were pleasantly surprised by the new content they discovered, they overwhelming despised not have a safe "my space".

I gathered some valuable insights from these observations:

  1. Users were accustomed to a "personal" view from the old library which they viewed as "all my stuff". That was a safe space for them unadulterated by any one else's content.
  2. We need a robust strategy around transitioning existing users to the new experience.
  3. Filtering for content was not an intuitive view for users

Pivoting to a a new model

To give users a safe "my space", I decided to borrow the Google Drive model. I introduced the concept of My Content, very similar to Google's My Drive.

The idea was that everything users create is added to My Content. They could also choose to add shared content, that they thought was valuable for them, to this space.

I also picked the Google Drive model because most customers we spoke to were aware of the Drive model and had been using it actively.

The Google Drive model

Testing the pivot

We were strapped for time at this point. I teamed up with the product manager to conduct quick user validation with 5 internal users and 3 customers for this model.

We discovered that although Google Drive was a familiar collaboration tool, there were severe drawbacks with it. Specifically for the Sumo Logic adaptation of it -

  1. Users did not intuitively understand the concept of the "My Content" space.
  2. Different users could organize the same shared item in their "My Content" as per their mental model. Hence, users did not intuitively grasp where an item actually lived.
  3. They did not realize that reorganizing items in the "My Content" view them around had repercussions for users who shared that item with them.

The Google Drive model, although familiar, wasn't understood very well by users.

The Single Hierarchy Structure

To address the issues of content overwhelm and a confusing "My Content" model, I proposed a simple single hierarchy structure

The single hierarchy structure

The final library structure


We are in the process of implementing this library structure.

We tested the prototype of the Single Hierarchy Structure with 6 internal users. It has proven to be the easiest to understand of all the models so far.

The Sales team has been using the prototypes to upgrade existing customers.

How do we measure success?

As we roll out the implementation to beta customers, I created a list of important questions to track to ensure that the new content sharing model is a success:

I worked with the product manager to define the success criteria for the new content library structure. The primary questions we want answered are: