[thelist] Examples of excellent control panel usage

Means, Eric D eric.d.means at boeing.com
Wed Jun 12 16:25:12 CDT 2002

>  -----Original Message-----
> From: 	David Ulevitch [mailto:davidu at everydns.net]
> Sent:	Wednesday, June 12, 2002 3:39 PM
> To:	thelist at lists.evolt.org
> Subject:	[thelist] Examples of excellent control panel usage
> I am beginning to redesign the web frontend for my DNS service and I was
> wondering if you all could do a coulple of things for me.
> 1) I was wondering what things (either words or URL examples) you hate
> about web control panels and interfaces and things I should try to avoid
> at all cost.

Give some representative examples on the SAME PAGE as the entry forms.  If
domain names need to include the final dot (e.g. www.mydomain.net.), then
the examples should show that; if they don't, they should show that too.  If
it doesn't matter, try to at least be consistent.  :)

Also, I don't know if EasyDNS uses the same style of update as Granite
Canyon does, where you have to respond to an e-mail to confirm any DNS
changes.  This is irritating, and doesn't particularly help security IMO.
E-mail is slow, it's not transmitted securely, and all someone has to do is
capture that e-mail and toss it right back at a static e-mail address to
confirm the changes anyway.  Don't do it.  (IMO)

However, DO give the user the option to send confirmation e-mails to the
technical contact or another address after a change is made, listing any
changes (if possible).  Audit trails are a Good Thing.

> 2) What things does a frontend to DNS _NEED_ aside from good docs and
> help?  I was thinking of having two interfaces, a simple "wizard-like"
> interface and then one for power users.  Is that a good idea?

Probably.  Power users may just want to set up a dinky DNS server they
actually control and set yours up as a "secondary" (that to the rest of the
world looks like a primary) server, instead, however.  I would try to make
one interface that was both powerful and easy to use, myself.

Zoneedit.com does a good job of the latter, IMO.

Hide stupid details the user doesn't need to see - example: the way zoneedit
does MX records.  It just allows you to prioritize them by 1st, 2nd, 3rd,
etc, instead of requiring you to enter 10, 20, 30, etc.

Use https.  The second to last thing a domain owner wants is his account on
your server sniffed and his DNS records changed to point to another server
(perhaps a competitor).  (The last thing he wants is, of course, for
Verisign to sell his domain illegally.)

> 3) What are your favorite "management" sites?  Examples of excellent
> design for sites that are used to manage things like DNS. (Think of
> something like webmin or some kind of server admin tool) [feel free to
> look at my existing setup at everydns.net which works but is a total mess
> and is the reason for the redesign]

As noted, I like zoneedit's setup, while I hate granitecanyon's.

Other nice things to have, if you don't already: a web-based DNS lookup
service to confirm that changes have propagated.  Even better would be if it
queries a server *other* than the one the changes were made on, in order to
really confirm it.  (This would help me because, for instance, when I'm at
work the firewall doesn't allow me to query outside DNS, but our in-house
DNS is pretty much the last to propagate changes, so it's nice to know the
rest of the world is up to date).

A "Change History" might be nice; keep the last revision or two of the zone
(so as to minimize DB usage) in case the user wants to revert or just look
at the last version.

A way to list the entire zone config at once, without hitting multiple pages
- useful for printouts which display the exact current config at a glance.

That's all I can think of at the moment. :)

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