In the summer of 2019, I had the opportunity to work as the product design intern on MongoDB Atlas. Atlas is the fully-managed cloud database product developed by MongoDB, and it helps customers more easily manage their deployments on cloud service providers like AWS and Azure with streamlined UI and UX.
As a team member on the product design team, I was able to develop a variety of different hard and soft skills, as well as get experience in UX processes as I saw a design from end-to-end. The projects I worked on can be separated into three categories:
I’ll have a section for each of these projects with documentation from start to finish, elaboration on the different skills they helped me develop, and the various processes that helped me reach the final product.
In this project, the goal was to create designs for a specific and concrete feature based on a set product description and scope that would definitely be pushed to production.
When users are added to projects in MongoDB Atlas, they must be authenticated in some way before they can have database access. Currently, the Atlas experience visibly offers two methods: using an external directory, or storing passwords for each username within Atlas. In the world of security, X.509 certificates can also be used in lieu of passwords—users are authenticated by the contents in a signed certificate, which is legitimized by a certificate authority. Atlas offers this as a third option, but doesn’t expose it in the user experience, which lowers customer confidence in our product. A more detailed visualization of these methods:
Designing and implementing a clearer way for users to utilize X.509 authentication would give MongoDB competitive leverage in the market, make more security resources available to our customers, ultimately raising their confidence level in what we offer.
The two use cases I had to design for as outlined in the product description can be described as “Easy Mode” and “Advanced Mode”:
In “Easy Mode,” Atlas would generate the certificates for the customer, and keep track of associations, much like most web applications that utilize usernames and passwords. In “Advanced Mode,” customers would be able to bring their own certificates from a third party and keep track of authorizations themselves.
Although those were the high-level use cases, there were many leaks that had to be plugged on the ground level. For instance, I had to think about the intricacies of cases like:
To start off the tangible designing process and guide my designs, I started with user flow visualizations. This is my first try at mapping use cases:
Clearly, I still had a ton of questions about the use cases I listed above. To answer these questions, I had brainstorming sessions and one-on-one conversations with the engineers involved in the project on the Atlas team. By continuously touching base with the developers, I was able to come up with a final version of holistic user flows with answers to every potential use case:
Because I was designing for a concrete feature addition, I had some UX constraints that I had to keep in mind at every step of the process. Specifically, I had to consider:
After getting feedback from engineers, product managers, and fellow designers, I presented the following hi-fidelity prototype at a stakeholder design review meeting, where it got approved and pushed to production. While there are many screens associated with the final deliverable, I've explained some of the crucial edge cases:
Adding and editing a user, as well as the act of revoking a certificate, in "Easy Mode" is shown in action here.
This project covers the other end of the spectrum—I was given a very abstract goal, and was tasked with collecting information and feedback from multiple sources that would ultimately inform the design solutions I proposed.
Over the summer, I was also able to dip my toes into visual design and illustration, ultimately helping to further visual and brand development as user experiences changed and developed.
MongoDB University is a MongoDB service that provides free and for-purchase courses that help users learn about and get certified in building, running, and deploying applications on MongoDB. While I was an intern, the University was going through an experiential refresh—the UI was being updated, and there were additional experiences being added. Because of my interest in visual and graphic design, I was able to join the team briefly to create illustrations that helped the product pivot visually as well.
By assuming responsibility for these illustrations, I was also assuming responsibility for the visual direction the product would be moving in. Thus, it was important that I understood the needs of the team and the pain points of the current brand, so I could create in a style that was right for the future of the product. After conversations with the University designer and Director of Education at MongoDB, we came up with the following pain points for the current style:
As I moved forward, I strove to create illustrations that were more adherent to the MongoDB visual brand, but still fun, whimsical, and rooted in the spirit of learning. The University team wanted there to be a bit more visual synchronicity with the professionalism of MongoDB’s other products, but still felt the need to convey lightheartedness and approachability. I took these ideas, and the newly updated MongoDB color palette, and got to work.
The two major illustrations I did first had to do with the new experiences in University. University was creating new experiences that grouped courses into specific tracks that could help users get certified to use MongoDB as developers, database administrators, and database architects. I created illustrations to convey these tracks:
These illustrations were then placed into different parts of the redesigned UX:
After finishing Course Tracks illustrations, I was poised to work on the Course Catalog thumbnail illustrations as well. These illustrations represented the actual courses themselves, and I created them to sync up the visual style of University as a whole. These are a few examples of the new illustrations on the right, juxtaposed against their old counterparts on the left:
After I finished the illustrations, I handed them off to the University product designer, who integrated them with his experience designs. We then went through several rounds of RITE testing and made iterations both to the experience and to the illustrations based on feedback and user comprehension. By the time I left, this project seemed to be in a good place to move forward and be shipped within the next few quarters!
Overall, I had a fantastic time working on the MongoDB product design team—this opportunity allowed for immense growth both professionally and personally. I was able to learn firsthand how a design team operates, both internally and in collaboration with engineering, management, and support teams. MongoDB allowed me to grow within product design and learn more about UX processes through actual industry immersion, but also gave me freedom to pursue supplementary topics I am interested in, such as illustration and motion graphics.
Specifically, this experience taught me a lot about:
All in all, I’m extremely grateful to have been a part of such a wonderful design team within a design-forward company, and I look forward to furthering the hard and soft skills that this internship helped me develop!