Blog Engineering Revisiting the variables management workflow
February 26, 2024
4 min read

Revisiting the variables management workflow

Our users helped us identify the hurdles in the variables management experience and we used those insights to guide improvements.

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CI/CD variables play a vital role in building and maintaining CI/CD pipelines and platforms. They are an essential part of the majority of developers’ workflows, serving a range of purposes from storing reusable information to maintaining data integrity. Given their significance, we made enhancing workflows related to CI/CD variables a priority. Recently, we conducted interviews with users representing different personas related to software development, working in teams with different structural and cultural dynamics. Our aim was to gain insights into the challenges they encounter when using and managing CI/CD variables within GitLab. The feedback helped us gain valuable perspective, guiding us toward necessary improvements in these workflows. Some of the notable changes are highlighted in this blog.

Better management

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Effective decision-making regarding the addition, modification, or removal of CI/CD variables hinges on understanding their purpose within a project or group. Lacking visibility into a variable's purpose can complicate these decisions. To address this challenge, we've introduced an enhancement to the variable creation process that will allow users to provide a description detailing the usage and context of a variable, reducing reliance on memory. This description will be displayed in the list, along with the other attributes of the variable.

Seamless task continuity

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Efficiency is paramount in software development as it allows developers to make time to focus on qualitative aspects of their work. We have changed the variable creation workflow to facilitate consecutive addition or editing of multiple variables to boost efficiency. Improved, clear notifications and contextual error messages ensure users can perform tasks without the need to repeatedly open separate forms.

Enhanced error prevention

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How the error messages are presented and made accessible in a workflow determines their effectiveness in error resolution. We revisited the different error states users are likely to encounter during variable creation and editing workflow and identified the improvement opportunities ranging from adding new validations and help-texts to enhancing existing error-handling states.

Share your feedback

We believe in taking an iterative approach to better the product. We used insights from the recent user research and our best judgment when deciding on the changes, but there’s always room for improvement. Your feedback from your experience of using the changed UI for performing the tasks in your everyday work will help us understand what’s working and what isn’t, and, therefore, decide on future iterations. Please head to our feedback issue to share your thoughts and suggestions on the changes made.

What’s next?

As we work on making the existing variables workflow more usable, we’re also making progress on the GitLab Secret Manager to provide users with a more secure method for enabling GitLab, or a component built within GitLab, to connect to other systems.

There’s an ongoing effort to improve the variables table layout to clearly represent the visual hierarchy between group and project variables and enhancing the audit history for CI variables to provide better visibility into activities related to variables.

Read more about our UI improvements

Disclaimer: This blog contains information related to upcoming products, features, and functionality. It is important to note that the information in this blog post is for informational purposes only. Please do not rely on this information for purchasing or planning purposes. As with all projects, the items mentioned in this blog and linked pages are subject to change or delay. The development, release, and timing of any products, features, or functionality remain at the sole discretion of GitLab.

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