product configuration and scalability

24 Jan 2008 - 3:53pm
1334 reads

I am neck deep in a project that has two goals.

1. to re-design an existing web based reporting / management application so
that it is more intuitive and better adheres to the users¹ mental model
(it¹s currently as intuitive as a DOS prompt...)
2. take our existing windows application (responsible for managing
configurations of remote kiosks), and bring it online, merging it with the
above product, thereby creating an online configuration and management

I have worked out the reporting side by creating a dashboard style interface
that allows the kiosks to be displayed on a map (since they are distributed
geographically) and permits the user to easily see the status of the units
by hovering over them (the icons are also colour coded in order to visually
indicate status). They can also drill down into the machine details if
needed from within that context. There is also a formal reporting module
that will allow for generation of pdfs etc to be used in reports or other

My trouble comes when I look to bring the configuration of these kiosks
online. The kiosks require configuration of both hardware elements as well
as software parameters. Since a single customer could have one unit, or
hundreds, I questioning my design in terms of scalability.

The concept that I am working with now involves a user being supplied with a
list of kiosks (managed by us, the user cannot add or remove kiosks from the
list for licensing purposes) and then ³applying² settings to the individuals
in the list. The issue at hand comes from the constraint that a customer
could have kiosks with different hardware / software configurations (a
single kiosk has a single instance of hardware and software parameters, but
the customer could have several different kiosk combinations out in the
wild). To this end, I designed a solution that allows the customer to build
different hardware ³profiles² and different software ³settings². To apply
these elements to kiosks, they would simply drag and drop the different
profiles and settings onto the kiosk name in the list. I am working with
the concept of drag and drop because our users are not necessarily computer
literate beyond playing solitaire (which uses the drag and drop metaphor).
This seems to work well for a small amount of kiosks but what if there were
500? I have added the ability to ³group² the kiosks and enabled drag and
drop onto the group to address this.

Is there a better way to manage hardware and software profiles of
potentially hundreds of kiosks with differing configurations? Am I worrying
about something that just ³has to be that way² because there are a lot of
options. Is the drag and drop concept the most intuitive approach?



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