A Direct Line to UX: Answering Your Questions About UX Tools, Methods, and Fusion HCM

In April, Oracle sponsored a webcast called “Putting the User First – Moving Beyond the User Interface to a User Experience.” Listeners learned how the Oracle Applications User Experience team worked closely with customers around the globe to build a deep user experience in Oracle’s next generation of Human Capital Management (HCM) applications: Oracle Fusion Applications HCM.

The webcast was delivered by Jeremy Ashley, Vice President of Oracle Applications User Experience (UX); Aylin Uysal, Senior Manager, HCM UX; Jay Richey, Director, Oracle HCM Applications Marketing; and Beth Correa, founder and CEO of Official Payroll Advisor.

The webcast, which had more than 200 attendees registered, is now posted on the HR.com site and available.

Picture of Jeremy Ashley, VP of Applications User Experience

Photo by Martin Taylor - Oracle Applications User Experience

Jeremy Ashley, Vice President of the Oracle Applications User Experience team, sits at an eye-tracking station in the Redwood Shores, Calif., usability labs.

Attendees had several questions, and we’d like to answer them here on the Usable Apps blog. We invite you to take the opportunity to add a comment or question at the bottom of this blog.

From Todd Grubbs, an analyst at WellPoint, Inc.:

Q: I've visited the Oracle Usability Labs, and I’ve done the eye-tracking demo. I'm very interested in learning how you guys apply the eye-tracking data you gather to influence changes in your design.

A: Oracle’s eye-tracking tools help members of the Applications User Experience team record the flow of a user’s visual attention during enterprise tasks. Based upon both qualitative and quantitative methods, researchers can tell whether users clearly understand icons, whether page navigation is intuitive, and whether page layout is confusing. This information helps product teams to make specific decisions that are targeted to visual and/or navigation features of pages. Eye-tracking methods are a complement, and not a substitute, for more traditional usability testing. The interface designer can be informed about unclear or distracting features on an interface, and can help determine why certain errors are made while completing tasks.

For more in how the Oracle Apps UX team uses eye-tracking, visit Usable Apps, or look for our demopod at OpenWorld 2011 in San Francisco, Oct. 2-6.

From Narayan Moni, a director at Aeroxchange, Ltd.:

Q: What software did you use to study the eye-tracking?

A: There are several steps, each with associated software, required to analyze the results from an eye-tracking study. First, detailed samples of gaze-points are translated into strings of behavioral fixations using software made by the manufacturer of the eye tracker, Tobii. Metrics from these scanpaths are then exported to Excel. Data may also be loaded into our own prototype analysis software, which finds matching clusters of similar scanning strategies. Metrics from both of these are then put into SPSS for further statistical analysis. We are also conducting trial studies with software by Noldus, called FaceReader, that can record several dimensions of emotion (e.g., happy, surprised, angry) based upon automated facial gesture analysis.

Q: Also, what was the size of the team that worked on soliciting user feedback? The reason I ask is that my company is a small company, and I am trying to understand the most effective and cost-efficient method to solicit user feedback. I understand that face-to-face is best, but it is also the most expensive and resource-hungry.

A: When Oracle began developing Fusion Applications, its next-generation enterprise software, Oracle had the advantage of being able to incorporate user experience teams from several recent acquisitions. To read more about how the teams came together and what that meant for Fusion, as well as for current application releases that have benefited from this user experience work such as PeopleTools 8.50 and E-Business Suite 12.1.3, please visit Usable Apps. We understand, however, that our work with Fusion Applications was done on a grand scale with a large investment from Oracle, and few businesses could replicate such an effort -- even with substantial resources. So we’ve been talking with Oracle customers and capturing their best practices in the field of user experience. You can read more about the type of research other Oracle customers have done to improve their own user experience – whether it was on a portal or their entire Web site – at Usable Apps as well.

Q: Could you speak about the organizational structure of the team that worked on Fusion and the responsibilities of each team? I am trying to understand how you were able to outline clear roles for each team without having teams step all over each other.

A: Our teams are responsible for certain product areas such as HCM, FIN, or CRM, or certain tool feature sets, such as collaboration (Web 2.0) tools or user assistance. But you have an excellent point, and it’s something we’ve been able to take advantage of: All of our research behind Fusion has been used to improve other Oracle applications as well as develop Fusion, and designs from one area may well serve a task flow in another area. So, because the Oracle Applications UX team enjoys a very collaborative atmosphere, we’ve taken many designs for Fusion HCM and incorporated them into recent releases of PeopleSoft, Agile, and JD Edwards, among other product lines. In addition, you will find collaboration tools and user assistance resources, for example, across the entire product suite of Fusion Applications. Because Fusion is a suite of applications that crosses many pillars smoothly and without interruption to the user, our UX team is designed somewhat the same way.

Kathleen Noble, NM DESIGN:

Q: Are there visuals?

A: Yes, and once again, we invite you to visit Usable Apps to read our growing series of articles on Fusion Applications. Here, you will find several articles on certain areas of the Fusion user experience with screenshots showing the highlights. Articles on Fusion Applications HCM, Fusion Mobile Portrait Gallery, Fusion Financials, and Fusion User Assistance are scheduled for publication before OpenWorld 2011.

Marsha Oremland, a director with ADP, Inc.:

Q: Can social networking be opened to individuals outside of the company?

A: Social networking in Fusion Applications is powered by the WebCenter Framework within Fusion Middleware (FMW). Fusion Middleware provides the ability to offer its services within an organization or outside a secure firewall -- the choice is up to the customer. However, in Fusion Applications, out-of-the-box social networking capabilities have been enabled for internal behind-the-firewall usage across global enterprises. But since Fusion Application runs 100% on Fusion Middleware, this capability can be extended outside of the enterprise through customization. Specific capabilities in FMW that could be opened to individuals outside of the company include discussion forums, wikis, and blogs. Read more about our collaboration tool set on Usable Apps.

Sue Wood, an analyst with Peopleclick Authoria:

Q: How many people work on the UX team?

A: Our team is a conglomeration of existing and acquired UX teams. The Oracle Applications UX team consists of dozens of micro-teams who all research, design, and test specific areas of the user experience of software applications.

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Misha Vaughan
Misha Vaughan, Director, Applications User Experience
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