Comparing AWS vs Digital Ocean From a UX Perspectiveby@nishith83
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Comparing AWS vs Digital Ocean From a UX Perspective

by Nishith GuptaSeptember 5th, 2022
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Amazon Web Services and Digital Ocean are both Cloud Infrastructure as a Service providers. While AWS is undoubtedly miles ahead when it comes to the breadth and depth of cloud offerings, I think Digital Ocean does a better job for someone who is new to the cloud. The setting up of a web server is easier and more intuitive.
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AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Digital Ocean are both providers of Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. While AWS is certainly miles ahead when it comes to the breadth and depth of cloud offerings, I thought for someone who is just getting started on setting up a cloud, let me try to compare both from a UX lens.

At UXHack, we use both AWS and Digital Ocean. Started our journey with AWS but just to ensure we don't have a dependency on only one provider, also explored Digital Ocean.

Today we have our main site running on AWS and our forum and test servers running on Digital Ocean.

From a UX standpoint, for me, three most important elements that any cloud provider should focus on:

  • Ease of setup
  • Predictable & transparent pricing based on various options
  • Context-based support resources

For the purpose of comparison, I will walk through the journey of setting up a basic building block i.e. a cloud server on a standard l5" laptop screen. Here are the key things to consider when setting up a server:

  • Server hardware: RAM, Processor, etc.
  • OS and version: Linux, Windows, Ubuntu, etc
  • Region
  • Whether automated backups are needed
  • Need for extra storage i.e. hard disk

Basis the above factors, the final price you will pay per month is derived.

With the above background, now let's look at how you can go about configuring the same on AWS and DigitalOcean

In AWS, these cloud servers are generally known as Elastic Compute (EC2) instances; in Digital Ocean, they are known as Droplets.

Here's how the first fold appears on AWS:

And here's how it's laid out in Digital Ocean:

By looking at both the above images, think it's pretty evident that Digital Ocean makes for a meaningful impression right from the first fold.

Focused attention on the type of instance I want to setup whereas in AWS the first thing is a Name and one needs to scroll a bit to start meaningful interaction.

Let's move further down now and look at the next folds of AWS:

In the above snapshots, I think there's a lot of unnecessary information like AMI-ID and Network settings which AWS shows upfront. And the information which should be more detailed like monthly pricing is not even shown or can be missed easily because of the smaller font size 🤦‍♂️. Hint: Find '1GB Memory' in the above image.

Let's now compare the above with how it's laid out in Digital Ocean:

While the number of folds is certainly more in Digital Ocean, I think, all the requisite information is very well laid out. And perhaps a reason why the screen does not look cramped with text all over unlike in AWS.

  • Easy to comprehend different types of instances like Basic, CPU Optimized, and Memory Optimized whereas in AWS, the terminology is quite technical t2.micro
  • Very easy to compare different price points (monthly) w.r.t hardware and instance type). I still don't understand why AWS leave it to the user to calculate this 🤔
  • An important aspect of 'Region'. Digital Ocean has made it a part of the flow, unlike AWS where the region is something you need to select on the top right ('Oregon') in the image

To sum up, whenever I have tried to set up anything in Digital Ocean like Cloud server, Remote Database, CDN, Storage etc. it has always been a better experience as compared to AWS.

Though as shared first up, AWS is miles ahead when it comes to overall capabilities, and thus sometimes UX takes a back seat. But I am pretty sure, for the capabilities that are matched, I will recommend you to start with Digital Ocean else you might find yourself lost in a maze :)

Also published here.