Six Things You Can Do Today to Jump-Start Your User Experience for Enterprise Applications

By Misha Vaughan, Oracle Applications User Experience


Photo by Martin Taylor, Oracle
A good user experience does not have to be a shot in the dark.

Ahmed Aboulnaga’s recent article in UKOUG Scene, “Usability – Ignored by Developers and Undervalued by Managers” made some great points about the benefits of usability research.  

As I was reading it, I wondered: Would a mid-market or small-market company read this and think, “Well, I just don’t have the budget or time, so I’ll just have to do without.”

Good usability practices are completely possible even on the smallest budget, and with no UX staff.  Here are a few ways that even small IT shops can inject some user experience goodness into their process. 
  1. Identify. Who is your user? We’ve published a cheat sheet on how to do this, courtesy of UX Direct, which is a web site that outlines the user experience process and guidelines Oracle uses.
  2. Work smarter. Jump-start your design with user experience design patterns.  We’ve already invested in the research and testing, so you don’t have to.
  3. Sketch. Wireframe before you code. 
  4. Visuals. A few key things on the visuals: Ultan O’Broin (@ultan) is working with ODTUG to get the word out about visual design for enterprise applications.
  5. Get feedback. Persuade a colleague to show your wireframes to real end users. If you do it yourself, it’s too easy to slant the results in your favor.
  6. Iterate. Re-design and re-test, as resources permit. It helps enormously to separate the business logic of your application from the user interface logic, as in this example (page 41) from Lonneke Dikmans of Vennster (@lonnekedikmans).
At this point, you might be thinking that I am making unrealistic claims, so I’ll point you to one of my favorite success stories. When Greg Duncan was with the City of Las Vegas,  he had the one most important resources -- an executive mandate from his CIO at the time, Joseph Marcella.

If that doesn’t convince you that you can incorporate user experience methodologies into your own process, let me share Floyd Teter’s (@fteter) story about a project with EiS Technologies.  He attended a UX and ADF training workshop and picked up some UX methodologies, like basic usability testing, and delivered a world-class user experience in a matter of weeks using ADF essentials for a reporting tool.  His budget consisted of Otter Pops and a Saturday afternoon of testing with end users.

In a story carried by O Tech Magazine (page 25), Marcel Maas (@mhjmaas) of AMIS actually had the benefit of a user experience designer, Sander Haaksma (@sanderha) of UX Company.  However, they still managed to keep costs down by using an agile methodology.

Would you benefit from UX expertise on a project, either as full-time staff or contracted resources?  Of course you would, because you don’t have to spend time developing a whole new area of personal expertise.   

Is that feasible for you? If not, try just one of the techniques above.

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Misha Vaughan
Misha Vaughan, Director, Applications User Experience
@mishavaughan on Twitter

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