Apprendan Q&A – Talking 5.0 with Chris “Chief” Najewicz, UI Engineer

Ryan Quackenbush

By Ryan Quackenbush

Our 5.0 release has been our biggest and most ambitious to date. We’ve all learned so much from our customers and we’re proud to know we’re building the best PaaS: for the Enterprise, with the Enterprise. This series of blog posts includes Q&A with some of the Apprendans who worked hard to create Apprenda 5.0. Hear what they learned, what they think is important, and how they made it through our most aggressive release schedule ever.

Fun Fact: Does a great impression of Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Ryan: What’s most exciting, from a UI perspective, about 5.0?
Chief: It’s definitely improved, especially from the perspective of overall coherence. The old UI was designed a long time ago and it wasn’t developed by front-end specialists, like us. We decided to use a framework called Angular, which was developed by Google, to make rich, client-side applications. As far as the code is concerned, this has really helped to make the application much easier to update and manage as opposed to the old dev portal.

Ryan: The old portal wasn’t easy to manage?
Chief: Not in comparison, no- mainly because of the technologies used. Different versions of JQuery, for example: on some pages there was version 1.5, on the next would be 1.6. It’s obviously tough to debug in a setting like that tough to figure out support specifics. It’s really nice having one framework.

Ryan: So when someone who’s been using the old portal starts using Apprenda 5.0, what’s going to greet them?
Chief: It’s very blue. (laughs) It’s a lot more colorful, which is nice. The old version was sort of black and grey. I think everything is a lot more intuitive. The usability of the platform has vastly improved with the new functionalities that we’ve included. Take scaling your applications, for example. There’s a number of new features that just didn’t exist in the old portal. There’s a new slider interface that allows you to move between your instance counts; it’s much smoother.

There’s a whole new interface around developer logging, too. You can go in and make all sorts of filters within the logs, which is a bit different from the old UI where you were somewhat limited in how you could filter logs. It could only be filtered by date and severity level, with info / debug / fatal, etc. 5.0 allows you to filter by these, too, but it also allows for app name, organization, session ID, and instance ID, to name a few. You can also do things like select two or more logs and click a button called “Find Related,” which searches for commonalities between each of the chosen logs as far as their properties. Say you have two log messages and you want to find something related by organization ID. You click the corresponding check-box and it filter the logs by the organization

Ryan: Tell me more. What else is new?

Chief: There’s a lot more configuration options available for applications and components in this release. It’s nice because we’ve got it all organized in a drop-down, accordion-styled layout, so it doesn’t get cluttered. You see your headings, as far as components, and your deployment options. For applications, there’s the general information with the app name and a description and the user can scroll down to more specific configuration options.
Before it was somewhat limited. There was very basic information that you could add in about your app and its components, but now it’s a lot more comprehensive. You can select your JRE version and edit your custom properties for specific components right in that interface instead of having to go back and forth.

Ryan: Why were all of these updates chosen? Was it based on customer feedback?
Chief: I think that with the old dev portal, there was more of a desire to get the product out to market, so we didn’t have much feedback from anyone at that time. Now, a few years later, we have a lot of clients who are using Apprenda. Some of the changes surely have come as a result of their feedback. But even with just our internal developers using it, we discovered that to do certain things you’d have to make upwards of seven or eight clicks and really dig deep into the portal to get to certain areas. With the new portal, it’s a lot easier to get around. That increase in accessibility to different functions makes for a vast reduction in time that is spent performing certain tasks that may have taken you ten or fifteen seconds in the old portal. 10-15 seconds is about double the average human attention span…FYI.

Ryan: Let’s say a first-time user is sitting down and ready to dive into 5.0. What would you want to say to them?
Chief: I’d like to ask them how they feel about it. Usability testing is always good, so I’d like to experience how they use it. Also, we’ve added a lot of in-line help, such as a little roll-over question mark icons in certain areas that can provide a helpful synopsis in case a developer doesn’t fully understand what a particular area of an application does or is unfamiliar with certain concepts. That said, I would still like to see how it plays out for someone who’s never used it. That’s where the customer feedback we were talking about comes into play. And I’m looking forward to doing that with this release!

Ryan: How do you feel about your rapidly expanding team?
Chief: It’s pretty awesome. And we’re looking forward to adding some more.

Check out the other interviews in this series!



Ryan Quackenbush
Ryan Quackenbush

Ryan Quackenbush is the Advocacy Programs Manager at Apprenda. His cooking is renowned, his record collection and library are extensive and, when not at Apprenda, he can usually be found rooting for the Mets or playing live music. You can follow him on Twitter at @RSQuackenbush.

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