Wednesday Nov 09, 2011

Sirious Business of Voice-based Assistance: Enterprise Apps and Global UX Considerations

Yes, voice-based user experience has been around for a while. HCI freshmen grappling with Molich and Nielsen's seminal 1990 CHI paper on usability heuristics for the past two decades would have come across such user interfaces - twice. Even on mobile phones voice assistance is not new. I've used voice-based Google search on my iPhone and Google Translate Conversation Mode on my Nexus S for a long while now, for example. But now the inclusion of Siri as a native feature on the iPhone 4S has really caught the attention of the consumer market and UX professionals alike.

Siri image referenced from TechCrunch. All rights acknowledged.

We've had discussion on whether Siri is or isn't a Google search killer, jokes about its inability to deal with Scottish accents, the unfortunate meaning of the word Siri in Japan and Georgia,  outrage over the outages, and all the rest.

Two questions interest me:

  1. What are the enterprise applications user experience (UX) implications of Siri?
  2. What are the global UX aspects to the Siri potential?

As a UX professional I can see Siri use cases for mobile workers, sure, for simple input and creation tasks, but also for finding and manipulating more complex business transactions by taking direct action on data, contacts, locations, analytics, you name it, from one small device. Richard Bingham has some great points about Siri's potential in the enterprise customer service space.

Siri offers a logical means of interacting with devices that are essentially phones while on the move-your voice-and takes the natural user interface experience currently dominated by gestures to a new level. Obviously personalization and alternative interaction options will still always be needed as not everyone will want to use voice-based assistance all the time. Fine for telling Siri to approve an purchase requisition in your worklist or to map a route to the next service request within a 5 mile radius while you're driving (using a headset mind), but nobody is going to intone, Stephen Hawking-fashion, into their iPhone "Tell me who won't make quota in my sales territory this quarter" while waiting in line in Starbucks. For enterprise use, a more scalable service will also be required. An ability for Siri to handle domain-specific terms and jargon that a now comprehensive range of enterprise applications user profiles use in their conversations is a requirement too. With the mass uptake of iPhones and the fact that Siri learns from input means that shouldn't be a huge problem.

As far as I can tell in terms of international language support, Siri supports English sure, especially well if you like to speak like a real android, but also French and German. Additional languages will be needed to penetrate lucrative Asian, Japanese and South American markets. It will need to handle the more, shall we say, nuanced accents of non-native English speakers too. All this is very doable. Siri uses Nuance Communications technology acquired from the infamous Lernout and Hauspie, so global capability is in the DNA. As for usage in the field worldwide, will mobile workers in every culture take to Siri the same way, or at all? Looks like a fine ethnographic study on mobile voice assistance use in the making. 

Can we expect Google and Android to react? You bet. With all that mobile Google Translate and search expertise expect something spectacular before the iPhone 5 appears.  Of course, Siri is currently beta anyway, so by then, Apple will have moved it along significantly too.

Note: Apple says it have no plans to backport Siri to previous Apple iPhone versions, though Steven Stroughton-Smith and others have a solution to that

Friday Aug 19, 2011

UX On Your Terms: Terminology Considerations for Enterprise Apps

Terminology is a critical part of the user experience. Here's some guidance for enterprise apps UX designers to consider when creating designs and prototypes for testing.

  • When developing new terms, avoid puns, humor, jargon, symbols, or making up your own abbreviations or acronyms just to save space.

  •  Avoid compound words (that is, words consisting of multiple nouns and verbs), gerunds (that is, words ending in ing) and adjectives. These can be problematic for translation too.

  • When designing native mobile apps (for Android, iOS, Blackberry, and so on) or integrations with third-party applications, remember the user experience may require you to use terminology other than Oracle’s version of the term. In some cases, conflicts are inevitable, UX designers should be prepared to clarify to developers which version should be used and why.

    Apple iOS Starts term

    Oracle apps Starts term equivalent

Apple uses Starts and Ends in the iPhone Calendar. Oracle uses From Date and To Date, Effective Start Date and Effective End Date, From Date and To Date and so on in Oracle Fusion Applications.
  • The simple rule of terminology is that each term has only one meaning in that context. The same word can mean different things, depending how and where it is used.

    Supply a clear context for usage and a description for any new term requested. This information will be stored with the term. If you can, supply a screen shot of the prototype showing where and how the term is used to add more context. Specify what term should not be used in that context too--for example if users objected to particular terms during usability testing and you decided on something else, then include the rejected terms as deprecated versions of the approved one. 

  • Research your terminology and language style requirements. Never dumb down the language used in the UI. It is a critical part of the overall UX. If you believe a term or style is required in English then pursue it using UX testing and market justification. Terminology and style can be developed for new interactions in any language, for example, check out how Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 deal with these issues in Spanish and German respectively:





Double tap

Pulce dos veces

Touch and hold

Mantenga pulsado


Deslice el dedo







(Source: Welinske J, Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps)

Microsoft WP7 German style example

(Source: Microsoft)

Any other guidance on terminology for UX designers? Find those comments and share...

Wednesday Mar 02, 2011

OUAB Europe Globalization Topics

Pleased to announce that the Oracle Usability Advisory Board has added a globalization workgroup (for internationalization, localization, and translation issues) for 2011.

The aims of this workgroup, broadly, are:

  • To understand how our customers use translated versions of applications.
  • To identify key international support, translation and localization-related usability issues in deployed applications.
  • To make recommendations to Oracle usability and development teams about meeting global customer usability requirements in current and future versions of our applications. 
Potential areas include: How international users use applications when working, ethnography opportunities, key cultural impacts on usability; internationalization and multilingual support (MLS) feature usage, localization of forms and reports, language quality, extensibility, translation of user assistance, user-generated and rich-media content like UPK, and international mobile application opportunities. Plus whatever the OUAB members agree should be looked at! More details the organization of the group is available on the website  (scroll down to the "Charter" section).

Oracle Applications Cloud global user experience (UX): Culture, localization, internationalization, language, personalization, more. A globally-savvy UX making it all fit together for Oracle's worldwide partners and customers.

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

Ultan Ó Broin. Senior Director, Oracle Applications User Experience, Oracle EMEA. Twitter: @localization



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