I designed a Tactical Overview widget for the Icinga Web dashboard.


Donut charts enable one to have a lot of information in a compact format. As a nice side effect, they breaks up the rectangularity of typical UI elements, which makes them more interesting to look at.

Since we need to both display hosts and services, one approach was to combine two donut charts into one.

Ideation started with donut charts variations.

After some fine tuning and putting it in context, it turned out that this wasn’t quite appropriate. The graph is too detailed.

With these learnings I went back to the drawing board and focussed more on these points:


  • the amount of problems in relation to the total number of objects
  • make it graspable at first sight, if there is a problem
  • make the number of actual problematic objects obvious

While the first bullet was solved pretty well by the donut chart, it was not capable of fulfilling the remaining. It was clear, that donut chart are not suitable for complex or detailed data, so I went back to rectangles.

This is the final widget with which I came up, which checks all the requirements.

There are different grades of detail for the objects squares. So when there’s only a few they’re display pretty large. This makes it easy to grasp how many there are on the spot. The more objects there are the less important the actual number of items becomes.

Up to six objects are display pretty big. The more objects there are, the less detailed the display becomes. Important detail information like the actual amount of critical items is displayed as a number.

The final mockup clarifies, that this approach is a lot more balanced between »first glance« rough information and »second glance« detail information.

To get even more detail information, the user can interact with certain parts of the widgets as well, which would lead him either to a list of object or a detail view. Also there’s a tooltip showing the actual name of the object, when hovering a tile.

Netways Web Services (NWS) offers managed open source tools as software as a service (SaaS). This means that they offer optimized standardized setups of open source software tools, that customers can subscribe to.

Starting up with simpler applications like GitLab, Rocket.Chat, Jitsi and of course Icinga, the offered SaaS products became more complex with the addition of Kubernetes and Virtual Private Cloud. The latter is based on the Cloud Computing Infrastructure Management tool OpenStack.

The Goal

The goal of the project was to develop a UI design system for the customer facing management interface. The management was designed to only handle basic configuration and info for the app offerings.

One key requirement was for the system to be scalable, so that the user interface was capable of managing the addition of future products.

My role was to develop the UI concept in cooperation with the product owners and implement a toolkit of reusable UI elements, so that the team can further implement new interface sections for the app, when new product offerings were added.



Colors and type

I used the already available color set of the marketing pages for the branding of the customer center. For the font I was looking for a modern, sans serif typeface that is readable at smaller sizes. It should also look fresh and have character in opposition to commonly used UI fonts.

NWS user interface colors and typography
The color set was taken from the marketing website.

The products

Custom made icons brand the products as NWS offerings, while still maintaining the reference to the original tools.

Main navigation

The app features a sidebar, which made it pretty versatile in the amount of items it can hold.

The sidebar layout makes the main menu easily scalable.

The Sidebar

Besides the main menu holding the users products, the sidebar also contained a quick add menu. Not only does it give a quick overview about the offerings, it makes adding new products and resources easily accessible.

It should also make MyEngineer one of the key features easily accessible from each view. MyEngineer is the support feature of NWS and comes with every plan. The customer can get quickly in contact with one of the support engineers.

Clear Usability and User Guidance

Besides simple SaaS products, there were some more complex products offered. Even if the customer won’t grasp the full feature set and possibilities, the portal offers a streamlined onboarding for the latter. The interface directs the user step by step and offers descriptions of the attributes the user can set.

More complex products offer a variety of configuration options. With a set of standardized custom UI elements, the team could effectively build their user interfaces for new products.

Icinga Web is the web interface for Icinga. Although a lot of the features of Icinga are better used via command line, this cumulates most of the day to day functionality in a user friendly graphical interface, that even non technical people can use.

The central part of Icinga Web is the monitoring module, which had to be completely rewritten to work with the highly anticipated Icinga DB, which is the new database interface for the Icinga core. This was the chance for a fresh UI redesign.

For the first version we wanted the new UI to be more consistent, visually clearer and provide more viewing options.

With the Icinga Rebrand to be rolled out, we wanted the Icinga Web user interface to reflect the new visual language. Since the new branding was mostly light on dark, I prepared drafts for a dark theme for Icinga Web.

Theming was an integral part of how Icinga Web was built. But we also wanted to adapt the UI to the Browser preference and enable an automatic switching, which required some extended functionality.

Defining a color palette

The first step was to define a rough color palette. Sidebar and viewport background were the first, since it was the most prominent color for the theme. We kept the status colors, but went for a new primary accent color.

Refining the palette

After I found a harmonious palette for the start, I implemented the new themes, so I could immediately see, how the colors work. Since the base background color of the viewport wasn’t pure white/black, I started tuning the grays and tinting them with subtile blue-ish shades.

Introducing Theme Modes

In addition to separate themes, we found that there has to be a relation between the flavors of a theme, a.k.a. light and dark mode. So the development team extended the theming engine with theme modes, enabling theme developers to define separate versions of their theme depending on the user’s preferred color-scheme.

I helped them implement the themes for the new engine. In the implementation process we did some further refinements and tidied our whole variable system to reflect a proper palette system and rename the variables accordingly.

With a new setting in the Icinga Web Preferences, the user can select a distinct theme mode or make the theme adapt to the browser settings.

This project was a wholesome brand design effort on how Icinga is presented to customers, partners, developers and the community. It wasn’t only about rebuilding the website. It was about capturing the recently elaborated product strategy and presenting the product clearly and understandable to these target groups. This involved re-thinking most of the structure and content of the original website as well as building a visual concept, that conveyed these concepts to its target groups and create content and design for exactly those people.

Take a look at icinga.com

Icinga is represented by a pulsating orb.

The main features of Icinga were visually represented by icons.

After the decision, that we needed new Icinga community shirts I took the chance to bring our apparel design to the next level and came up with multiple drafts.

Rather than having just a one time give away, I aimed for more sustainable t-shirts. We would use proper high-quality materials, full color print and colorful appealing visuals – something that our community members actually love to wear.

This is the design, we finally agreed on. The shirts are still pretty much sought after within the community. Even our team still enjoys wearing them themselves – at work and privately.


Our product manager tended more towards a simple and basic approach, so I started with simple logo placements and variations thereof.

I could have made a simple logo placement work, but I was looking for something more original.

After some ideating, I was urged to make the shirt designs more original. Since the people wearing it are pretty familiar with Icinga I tried to bring more of Icinga personality into the designs. In the end those would be the main target group that should love to wear the shirts. Wearing them should make them proud of being part of the Icinga community.

My first approach to make the design more special was to ideate with the monitoring states that is pretty central to using Icinga. Every Icinga user would know what an OK or an UP state means.

»I’m OK – approved by Icinga«: A pretty charming understatement, that makes even more sense if you know about Icinga states.
»What’s UP?«: Another variation using the monitoring states.
Warning, Critical and OK: They only made sense, if we had multiple shirts.

It also turned out pretty appealing to use the state colors combined in a more abstract way. Even if I liked the nerdiness of the »fun with states« drafts, we agreed that it would be more practical to have a more generic shirt design that also featured the logo prominently.

One variation of the final approach. On the dark shirt the colors were even more appealing.