Monday Apr 23, 2012

Oracle Usability Advisory Board Europe Globalization Working Group April 2012 Debrief

Doors to manual! The Oracle Usability Advisory Board (OUAB) Europe met in the Oracle Thames Valley Park, UK and Oracle Geneva offices on the 17th and 19th of April 2012, respectively. These were the biggest and best European meetings yet (with nearly 30 people present); a testament to the importance of, and customer and partner interest, in applications user experience (UX) not just in the EMEA region, but worldwide.

Sten Vesterli of Scott/Tiger Explaining about Usability (and other) Superheroes

Sten Vesterli of Scott/Tiger Explaining about usability (and other) superheroes. Picture by Ultan O'Broin.

There was a top-notch agenda for both meetings, with rich, engaging content, demos of Oracle Fusion Applications UX innovations and concepts, opportunities to input into new designs and features, data gathering exercises, updates from new Board members and from Oracle too on UX and strategic activities. With networking and communication strengthened on personal and professional levels, I have to say, it was fun too, and all conducted in a spirit of candid openness and good humor!

Particular highlights for me were the sessions on designing usable icons for international applications, delivered by Applications User Experience colleagues Lulit Bezuayehu and Eric Stilan, and the gobsmackingly-brilliant keynote in Geneva by Fusion User Experience Advocate and Oracle Ace Director Sten Vesterli (@stenvesterli) of Scott/Tiger called Superhero Usability.

Lulit Bezuayehu and Eric Stilan of Oracle talking in TVP about usable icon design.

Lulit Bezuayehu and Eric Stilan of Oracle talking in TVP about usable icon design. Picture by Anna Wichansky.

In the globalization working group space, my main activities were to elicit feedback from OUAB members on language preferences and search of translated content in the Oracle Fusion Applications Help (see this great white paper for more information). I delivered an update on the Fusion apps translation releases, and explained what was translated and the strategy behind such decisions.  I also gathered data about international interest in mobile applications UX, about gamification, and about browser usage by bi-di language-speaking apps users.

My main observations from the globalization-related side of the Board interactions are:

  • Customers on existing apps are still reporting insufficient space for expansion of names and issues with cross-cultural requirements for apps users. I will take a personal action to follow up.
  • Deployment of mobile solutions and interest in tablet devices in the enterprise in particular is increasing, big time. A hot topic in EMEA for sure, and as you can ascertain from Oracle's new Oracle Fusion Tap for Oracle Fusion Applications web site, a strategic one too.
  • There is emerging interest in enterprise apps gamification, particularly in CRM and HCM space. However, more outreach on the potential and what it actually means in the apps space is needed. Not as strong as in the US at present, but definitely there.
  • Generally, there appears to be no requirement for apps customers to search in the same place for help translated into multiple languages beyond two at most perhaps. However, research continues on this, so no real conclusion there yet.
  • Customers are adopting enterprise apps cloud solutions, and other deployments too naturally, that require language versions on UX grounds, which is great! Cloud-based translated versions for SMEs in EMEA too, are, surprise, surprise, a requirement for success.
  • Machine translated (MT) apps help content. Oh dear! WTF has happened here with user expectations? Mentioned at the Board, the reaction from members about MT told me much about the issue of translations quality but also about the prescience of what is happening in the personal and consumer space influencing enterprise applications UX expectations (a good thing). Oracle MT is not like Google Translate, but is domain specific and quality oriented with human input and verification before release. It is very encouraging that OUAB members continue to care about the quality of the translated content. But, we (OUAB)  need to communicate in plain language (duh) about what improvements in enterprise applications translation technology really means for customers and partners in terms of their user experience. Context of use, and all that. My action item.

Watch out for other blogs covering the non-globalization side of events. In all, the OUAB Europe events were a very valuable exercise, and here's to more OUAB events outside of the US! If your organization would like to participate, then check out the OUAB section of the usableapps web site.

Again, thanks to all the OUAB members for participating, and a big shout out to colleagues Anna Wichansky and Alisa Hamai for their hard work in making this program so successful worldwide.

Wednesday Nov 09, 2011

Czeching out DITA Europe 2011

Attended the DITA Europe 2011 Conference in Prague. Presented with Erika Webb (@erikanollwebb) the research into using comics to explain DITA concepts. Delivery went down very well, positive vibes, lots of interaction in the Q&A session, and a few souls now up for trying comics for themselves as a result. Score.

DITA Europe 2011 at the Marriott


Clearly, from what we heard at the conference there is a need for getting across to writers the fundamentals of DITA and structured authoring, so comics are worth a look if you find yourself with that need.

Loved Marie-Louise Flacke's (@flacke) session called iconmania: the use of icons in documentation when they are neither needed nor wanted--just because you can--and the dismal result for the user and DITA adoption. Future stress testing is clearly required by the IMF (Icon Monitoring Foundation) and the time is now right for a French woman to bring some badly needed sanity to the global icon commodity market, methinks.

Slide from iconmania presentation


Delighted to also find a copy of Oracle's Marta Rauch's (@martarauch) article on mobile user assistance in circulation at the conference by way of the Center for Information Design and Management's Best Practices Newsletter.

CIDM newsletter

It was encouraging to hear about a widening use of personas and task analysis in information design and about the need for usability testing of DITA artifacts and outputs. Still not enough user-centered design methodology being demonstrated IMO, but it is moving in the right direction. The now established practices of community content engagement and the buzzword du jour "gamification"  surfaced in ways that, to me, seem orthogonal to DITA. Uptake and success of a community content strategy with or without the use of game mechanics doesn't depend on DITA. As we heard at the conference, a “build it and they will come attitude” isn’t sufficient.

SAP appears to have DITA nailed as a corporate mandate (Oracle does not use DITA on this basis) and clearly has a very well-defined and managed way of going about evaluation and implementations that reminded me of the SAP diligence when adopting information quality tools (DFKI/Acrolinx).

Translation, generally, within the DITA context, continues to be spoken about in somewhat janitorial terms of a declining cost (y-axis) over time (x-axis) imperative. Whether the source or target information adds any user value in the first place--discussed within the context of the total cost of a full content life cycle--might be a more constructive approach.

Generally, I remain unconvinced about DITA saving greater translation cost than any other proper content strategy management. To reduce word counts, ergo the most visible variable in cost of translation, what you do need a change management strategy that includes migration, talent management, training, enforcement, and reporting, but above all user-centred design principles and a change in writing behavior.

DITA translatability best practices that I come across are conceptually no different from those for dealing with linguistic, rendering or processing issues in other translated formats (see my own). DITA best practices for machine translation (statistical or rule-based) remain elusive, however.

Sessions on multilingual asset management made the case well for dealing with all the large number of topics, files, objects associated with DITA-based information development, and the promise of visualization of those assets seemed a brilliant feature idea (reminded me of eye tracking scan paths) for any CMS rather than the unwieldy object trees and hierarchies we see now.

Slide from macroscopic vizualization presentaton showing DITA objects and usage

Great to be back in Prague after all these years. Once I finally got through the shambolic passport control at the airport (nobody in the EU should accept such bureaucratic buffoonery in 2011) and got to the city, I found Prague's character hadn't changed too much since I had been there in the 1990s: wonderful sights, sounds and smells, and taxi drivers each worth avoiding by a 10km radius.

Dancing House, Praha

There is a frustrating lack of multilingual signage at key points in the city. However there are some welcome new locations that require no translation at all, so I was happy.

Starbucks Praha

I easily navigated about the city on shank’s mare and the superb public transport, relying on Google Maps on the iPhone again. Never got to try Czech option on Android Google Translate Conversation Mode. Next time. Maybe at passport control.

Google Translation Conversion Mode on Google Nexus S

In all, a well-attended conference (120+, I’d say), excellent organization, varied subjects and expertise levels, and a superb location that’s easy to get to if you’re in EMEA. Certainly, plenty to think about after the conference, which is always a win.

About

Oracle applications global user experience (UX): Culture, localization, internationalization, language, personalization, more. For globally-savvy UX people, so that it all fits together for Oracle's worldwide customers.

Audience: Enterprise applications translation and localization topics for the user experience professional (designers, engineers, developers, researchers)!
Profile

Ultan Ó Broin. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @localization

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