It’s a jungle out there

At least it is accord­ing to Cloud­Checkr, who pub­lished the “In the Cloud For­est” info­graphic below. For those of you who don’t know, Cloud­Checkr is a ser­vice that will ana­lyze your Ama­zon Web Ser­vice accounts and show you where you’re doing it wrong, to help reduce con­fu­sion, save money, keep your info up 24/7, and make sure it’s all secure.

My first prob­lem with this info­graphic is that Cloud­Checkr assumes that every­one knows what I’ve just told you, dear reader. This assump­tion betrays THE WHOLE POINT of social media in gen­eral, and of info­graph­ics in par­tic­u­lar, which is to cre­ate con­tent that can be shared, prefer­ably as widely as pos­si­ble. Cloud­Checkr, how likely is it that some­one who isn’t famil­iar with your ser­vices will see this info­graphic? PRETTY DAMN LIKELY (I’m sorry, I’m yelling). But really, you are shoot­ing your­selves in the foot by mak­ing your con­tent com­pletely opaque to every­one who sees it that isn’t already aware of your com­pany. You have a space that is just beg­ging to be filled with a pithy blurb about who you are, what you do, and why every­one should think you’re cov­ered in awesome—it’s called a sub­ti­tle, and you don’t have one. Fail.

The Design

I beg any higher power that exists to smite every­one who uses ill-planned, non­sen­si­cal themes for their info­graph­ics. Every time I see one of these themed mon­strosi­ties, I am minded of every wanna-be stage direc­tor who decided that it would be “novel” and “make a state­ment” to set Mac Beth in 1930s Berlin, or the Old West. It’s not new, it’s not edgy, and it just con­fuses every­one. If you’re not work­ing at the level of Ken­neth Branagh, then you prob­a­bly can’t pull it off.

Please. Just. STAHP.

In this case, the design is a dark jun­gle. It has creepy-ish, dra­matic shadow let­ter­ing and dark blues and blacks as the foun­da­tion col­ors (like the TV show “Lost”–because you know, that is the first con­nec­tion every­one makes with AWS). The graphic design is tech­ni­cally okay, but not great. On the whole, I think that the mish-mash of shadowy-creepiness and the wildly diver­gent stylings of the sym­bols used to rep­re­sent the data is pretty ugly.

(ETA: one reader pointed out that this theme might be a play on “Ama­zon Rain For­est.” I will give Cloud­Checkr the ben­e­fit of the doubt, but that doesn’t really make any­thing else about it any better.)

The Data Elements

What is this whole thing about? What is the “Cloud For­est,” and why do I care? You have to go all the way to the bot­tom of the graphic to see that it’s the “results of a sur­vey of 400 Cloud­Checkr cus­tomers with 10 or more EC2 instances.” Ohhhhhh-kaaaaayyyy… thanks for let­ting us know that. Unless you know that EC2 is Ama­zon Web Ser­vices, you’d still have no idea what you’re look­ing at, though. So as an expla­na­tion, this lit­tle tid­bit is sorely lacking.

Cost

Why is cost at the top of the tree? Are these the high­est rate of excep­tions found? Is it vol­ume? Answer: I don’t freak­ing know. When you use a theme that has a nat­ural hier­ar­chy built in (top of tree=most impor­tant, or what grows from below), then you only serve to make peo­ple won­der what they’re miss­ing. Bad UX.

The two by-category sec­tions of cost excep­tions are both spi­dery, so at least that’s con­sis­tent. But one of them has no dis­cernible rhyme nor reason—it’s just some dots and links—hell, the lines don’t even line up with the text.

The cost per category—what does the per­cent­age mean? That would be best as a com­par­i­son TO the per­cent­age of instances by category—as it is, they’ve just cal­cu­lated how much the dol­lars are as a per­cent­age. I could esti­mate that in my head with­out any prob­lems, or they could have used the rel­a­tive sizes to make it visu­ally obvious.

And speak­ing of visu­ally obvi­ous: what is up with the “com­mon cost excep­tions” sec­tion?!? I HATE THIS. The 17% snake head is larger than the loop that rep­re­sents 35% of the total. It should be pretty obvi­ous that peo­ple will think that big­ger things are big­ger, and not ful­fill­ing that expec­ta­tion is a major fail.

Avail­abil­ity

More of the same, although here it’s birds, mon­keys, and flow­ers that make no sense either the­mat­i­cally or rep­re­sen­ta­tively. One par­tic­u­lar favorite of mine: the sub­head says

98% of users expe­ri­enced AT LEAST one excep­tion (empha­sis theirs).

With AT LEAST one excep­tion, I want to know how many peo­ple had more than one. I want to know which ones were most com­mon in con­junc­tion with which other one. I want actual action­able information.

Also, how do birds, mon­keys, and flow­ers relate to one another?

Secu­rity

There is asphalt in the cloud forest—who would have thought it?

My take? I think that if I were in sys­tems archi­tec­ture, know­ing that my com­pany or client was allow­ing EVERYONE in the world write/delete per­mis­sions for their S3 buck­ets, I would find that a lit­tle more impor­tant than just a trail of ants on the jun­gle floor.

In con­clu­sion

As I’ve been writ­ing this, it’s been harder and harder to make myself switch tabs to actu­ally look at the graphic. I think that alone should speak vol­umes. It’s unat­trac­tive, non­sen­si­cal, and doesn’t even explain itself well to the peo­ple who already know what they’re talk­ing about. Woe betide the unsus­pect­ing vis­i­tor to the Cloud­Checkr Cloud Forest.

Cloud Forest Infographic

CloudCheckr’s Cloud Forest

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