System Performance Modeler

UX design | UI design | Visual design

Rethinking a data-storage management tool


NetApp is a leading provider of software, systems, and services for IT administrators to manage and store data. I worked with a team of EchoUser designers and researchers that collaborated with the company to redesign the next generation of their System Performance Modeler (SPM), from the ground up. SPM is their primary online configuration tool, allowing sales engineers and partners to develop hardware solutions that meet their customer’s specific performance needs.

Using EchoUser’s user-centered design methodology, we first worked with stakeholders to establish the fundamental design principles of creating a product that is seamless, and easy to understand while addressing the technical aspects of NetApp’s full product line. The original SPM (shown below) allowed for complex configurations, but was overwhelming for new users, and challenging even for experts in some situations.

Phase 1: Discovery

To kick-off the project, we conducted existing user interviews, gathering insights to help us understand where exactly the current SPM was failing. The findings indicated:

  • The branched model of sizing was inefficient.
  • Sending users down two different flows for similar tasks was confusing.
  • There was no way for a user to tweak their field inputs.

Following the research, I worked with another designer to move from a wizard process model towards the initial conceptual model of a unified, flexible experience where users could explore different configuration options.

Phase 2: Design

In three design sprints, we validated our conceptual model with user flows and wireframes, updating throughout usability testing. I was responsible for the output section of the designs. The process was an extremely iterative one, with frequent design tweaks, and gradual increasing of wireframe fidelity. During this phase, we also brought in the development team, assuring our designs fit into any technical constraints.

Phase 3: Production

All relevant screens were skinned to brand standards, and put into an annotated UI spec document that included all interaction behaviors.

Additionally, another designer and I created a style guide to communicate layout details, type treatments, icons, color palette, and animations.


During the last sprint, we used the System Usability Scale (a tool for measuring usability), which resulted in a drastically improved score. It went from below 65 for the previous tool to 85.8, which increased usability from the 30th percentile rank to the 90th percentile.

Overall, NetApp is extremely happy with the results. The new tool is more intuitive, and increased the speed at which their sales team can configure solutions for their customer. The initial release included 700 users, and in the first week there were over 7,000 sizings performed with the new tool, and not a single call to support was made.