Case Studies

Clear Skies Ahead

Next-generation usability makes users happier and more productive.

By David A. Kelly

May 2006

Usability is one of the most critical issues when introducing new technology. An application must be easy to use and offer a good user interface design that will enable users to be more productive and efficient. These are concepts that Oracle has taken to heart as it develops Oracle Fusion with an emphasis on user-centered design (UCD).

Oracle Vice President of Applications User Experience Jeremy Ashley reveals that Oracle has doubled its investment in resources dedicated to usability, including research, design, modification, testing, and redesign. UCD is a process that helps Oracle identify what's important to users and to put the right functions together into business flows that are particularly effective and easy. UCD enables Oracle to identify the optimum way to design a product based on users being able to quickly, accurately, and easily complete their tasks.

UCD also plays an important role in reducing the total cost of ownership because it requires developers to spend additional time on research, design and testing during development so that new products address user needs and benefit their businesses. Productivity depends on user experience, and that is directly linked to total cost of ownership.

Read how Oracle is using UCD to modernize Oracle Fusion's interface so that it can meet modern expectations and requirements, including crisper performance, improved visual effects, and better organization of screen information.

Sue Shaw knows the importance of usability. As the enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications architect at Shell Canada, she's tasked with serving the IT demands of Shell Canada's 4,200 applications users. She knows that the success or failure of an IT project comes down to one thing—value to the employee. "It's really our employees who determine how effective a piece of software is," says Shaw. "For them, it's always about being able to get their jobs done quickly and accurately."

Faced with rolling out new technology, it is Shaw's responsibility to ensure that new systems make life easier—rather than more complicated and difficult—for Shell's employees. While many issues factor into the adoption of a new system (change management, core functionality, and performance, among others), one stands out as the most obvious to end users: usability.

"When software is rushed to market despite poor usability, it costs more to sell and support, incurs more costs when it's deployed, and can reduce the customer's overall satisfaction," says Jeff Johnson, president of UI Wizards, a product usability consulting firm based in San Francisco. "Good usability and good UI design can help lower total cost of ownership and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of an application."

Usability Defined

Usability is a measure of the ease with which people can employ software to achieve a particular goal. Usability encompasses information architecture, navigation, layout, and style elements that cater to user expectations and needs, improving productivity and reducing resistance to new deployments.

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