Usability improvements that Websphere console could use

Aug 24, 2015

Websphere offers a web based console to manage its settings and deployments. Sometimes, this web console is all that users have access to if their company security policy dictates that users should not have access to actual Websphere install location. Though the web console is quite powerful in that it allows you to control Websphere to a great degree, it could use some usability enhancements that will save time for its users.

From what I have seen, the most common use cases for the Websphere console are - deploying war/ear files and viewing log files. So it makes sense for Websphere console to provide these options right away when a user logs in. The current design just shows a Welcome page once a user logs in. From there, to deploy a war/ear, the user has to:

  1. Click on "Applications" link in the left navigation sidebar.
  2. The click in "Application types"
  3. Finally click on "Websphere enterprise applications" to bring up the screen where they can deploy.

Instead of showing the welcome screen, the Websphere console can take the user to the "Websphere enterprise applications" screen after they login. This eliminates three additional steps to get to the deploy step.

Another common task is restarting deployed applications. Currently, to do this, users have to tick a checkbox for the application, click on "Stop" button, then tick the checkbox for the application again and click on "Start" button. A "Restart" button can combine the two step stop/start operation into a single step.

Coming to the option to view the log files, it is embedded quite deep in the navigation:

  1. Click on "Troubleshooting" link in the left navigation sidebar.
  2. Then click on "Logs and trace" link.
  3. Then click on the server that the user wants (usually there is only server setup per Websphere profile).
  4. In the server screen, click on "JVM Logs" link.
  5. Then click on "Runtime" tab.
  6. It is finally here that the option to view the SystemOut.log and SystemErr.log files is given.

Instead of that, direct links to view the SystemOut.log and SystemErr.log files can be given in the left navigation sidebar. In the unlikely case there is more than one server in the Websphere profile, the sidebar can group the links to the log files by server.

Another usability annoyance in Websphere console is that it loads web pages inside a HTML frame. This means you can't bookmark pages that you visit frequently. For example, if the Websphere console didn't use frames then users can bookmark links to view SystemOut.log or SystemErr.log files. They can also open them up in multiple tabs if they want to view the both the log files at the same time.

A more ambitious usability improvement could be to allow the users to customize the Welcome page with links to frequently visited pages. This way they don't have to hunt their way down to pages embedded deep in the navigation.

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