Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Fourth Status?

When we're approaching new features, additions or changes we rarely ever started from "You know what would be cool?" We focus on practicality as the definition of cool is so subjective. And worse still, 'cool' has a time-frame to it. Flavor-of-the-month (FoTM) additions are not really 'wins' for anyone. They're an incredibly short term reactionary response that at times feel like a grasp for relevancy. And worse still, if it's in a customer facing system - it is the opposite of cool. 

Statushub has held the status trinity of Green/Yellow/Red since the beginning. It's resisted the idea of additional colored status'. And in the last six months as we've ramped up on tweaks, new additions, and new concepts in the tool (along with the plethora of things we try out in our skunkworks - yup, we like to call it that), we've tried to not hold anything as an absolute unless it makes sense to our vision of the service.

Even the idea of the trinity has become an object for challenging. Statushub has held that during a maintenance event, you can flag an item as being 'down' or 'having performance issues' , with a blue triangle and exclamation mark next to it. And while there is a certain clarity with that, there isn't. And, this half-in-half-out scenario was something we have questioned.

When something is in maintenance; it can be down or have performance issues during the period, or constantly changing states of both throughout, or even periods of it being 'up'. It's utterly unclear when you start working through the permutations. Showing performance issues during a maintenance  isn't quite right,  especially as it doesn't quite convey the intent of impact without further reading of the maintenance message, which may add context and more detail than the image of a circle can convey.

So, this led to the idea of a fourth status - where if an item is in maintenance, what if we displayed the circle in blue along with the maintenance icon? Would this add more clarity? Would this be more understandable at a glance? 

The issue we face with this is one of keeping the interface clean balanced with its functionality. We've had requests for additional status' to be added to the interface. And this posed another question - how many do you add? Where does it end? Our traffic light adoption (and others adopt it too, not just in the status service space) is internationally understood because of the road going traffic light system, and a similar system in industrial design.

Our quest for further research took us to an interesting post on Reddit called 'You can add 1 more color to the standard Traffic Light (Red/Yellow/Green), what color and purpose does it serve?' While some might consider Reddit to be the absolute last bastion anyone should use for common sense or balanced healthy discussion, it was a good yardstick for us to see the extreme end of the scale.

As a systems administrator, it is so easy to get caught up in the idea of working things to the nth value and to be creative. But, the purpose of a solution for customers is that it must serve them first, and everyone else after (or sometimes never). As you progress through the thread, the discussion veers away from additional colors towards some of the better implementations of the red/amber/green standard to add clarity.

Then the thread takes a more interesting turn and asks questions of an area we're hugely interested in; color-blindness. 

Colour (colorblindness (colour vision deficiency, or CVD) affects approximately 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world. In Britain this means that there are approximately 2.7 million colour blind people (about 4.5% of the entire population), most of whom are male.

Color Blind Awareness is a site we spend some time on given the numbers, and the drive we have to progress accessibility in what we do. And the issue of the trinity becomes directly affected by this, as does the idea of a 'blue' fourth status. For example:
Normal Vision
Protanopia (red light color-blind)
Tritanopia (blue light color-blind)

Deuteranopia (red/green light color-blind)

The issue of a fourth or additional status' becomes even less straight forward as you take accessibility into account. And it's not an issue you can disregard. Employers (whether public bodies or private) have an obligation in countless countries to ensure equality issues such as accessibility are upheld as a norm. And the tech space in SaaS honestly really lags behind on this.

In 2014, AccessIQ ran a great piece about accessibility in the online services space, with little improvement if you look around for yourself. And with some predicting that by 2020 (for those that hold any merit in Gartner, they even wrote about this earlier this year), online services will be the norm, there's a ton of work that needs doing to address this.

Will there ever be a fourth status on statushub? Will we hold the trinity as unbreakable? Honestly, it's an ever-evolving question for us. We continue to look at common sense functionality with a balance towards our own commitment to things like accessibility, usability and increasing simplicity which will always guide us on issues like this. As always, we love to hear feedback from our users and their own customers.