Sunday Feb 12, 2012

Oracle E-Business Suite: Features and Capabilities for Global UX

There is excellent global user experience afforded to users of Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12, all based on solid internationalization (i18n) and out of the box multilingual support (MLS). The engineering and features were covered by Maher Al-Nubani, Director of Internationalization Development in his webcast about Oracle E-Business Suite Internationalization and Multilingual Features.

Maher covered such areas as single global instance deployment, Unicode, BiDi, regional preferences (locale), MLS architecture basics, international calendar and first day of the week support, currencies, and  multilingual reporting. Check out the presentation slides (PDF) for full details.

Bidirectional Support in EBS
Here's a few features and capabilities, amongst others, that I think are particularly well-grounded in meeting the user experience needs of Oracle applications customers who deploy globally.  These are the kind of usability areas that the Oracle Usability Advisory Board (OUAB) members address through the Globalization UX working group. EBS implementors, take note.

  • Lightweight MLS support: New in EBS 12.1.3, by using OAM, multinational companies can activate languages without applying NLS (translation) patches. This means the user interface (UI) remains in English but setup, data and reporting is in the customer's language.  This is a customer requirement often missed. Combined with localizations functionality, an English UI with language data entry and printing is a powerful and effective solution that enables enterprises to work globally while using and sharing information according to local conventions. Full translations can be later easily added if required, for extra flexibility and evolution of the user experience.
  • Complete Excel data exchange: Business users just love Microsoft Excel! And, in EBS 12.1.3, customers can export data using comma or tab separated values (commas, of course, can be other kind of delimiters in other countries/locales). Plus, a choice of Unicode UTF-8 or UTF-16 export options means users can safely use Microsoft Excel to handle their data's character set encodings.
  • Cultural calendars: EBS 12.1.1 added support for the Arabic Hijrah and Thai Solar calendars. EBS 12.1.2 allows users to specify their first day of the week (it's Sunday, and not Monday for some). These UI features allow users to work in accordance with their local customs and conventions, but without impacting business logic or data.
  • BI Publisher global reporting: BIP's excellent internationalization foundation enables customers to communicate with other parts of their organization, suppliers, vendors, and other agencies easily. Without any dependency on installed languages or the DB character set, customers can create a report template for their language, country or region, and translate it easily themselves using XLIFF. For apps customers, reporting in the local language using customized templates and flexibility in how they work is a very big deal.
  • More Unicode support: Been there for a while now through Unicode (UTF8) introduced in Release 11i, EBS 12.1 uses the AL32UTF8 encoding, based on the latest Unicode standard to support more characters and languages. AL32UTF8 is is the default Unicode database character set for EBS 12.1 installations for multiple languages. AL32UTF8 is the default in Oracle Fusion Applications Release 11g R2, by the way.
  • Additional language translations: EBS 12.1  is now translated into 34 languages, adding Indonesian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. The myth that  every enterprise apps user speaks English has long been exposed as just that, a myth. It is also important to realize that not only do local users demand UIs in their own language, but the domain specific aspects of enterprise apps means that it is easier for them to understand and use translated versions, even when they do speak conversational English. Better productivity and user satisfaction in the workplace is the result.

Great features and support for our global customers! Refer to the resources at the end of Maher's presentation for availability, implementation details and more information. Watch out for some news about OUAB activities globally soon, too.

Thursday Oct 06, 2011

PayPal Error Message 3005: Where User Experience and Translatability Collide…

… and neither comes off very well. I received this huge error message as I was updating my credit card details in PayPal. I was working in the English language, yet this multilingual monster came my way.


PayPal Message 3005


Generally, these multilingual messages cause translatability issues. Most translatable files conform to a bilingual source-target paradigm, and not a multilingual one. The single language target enables better use of language assets and flexibility with process. Of course, the arrival of CMS and GMS-based translation solves a lot the coordination problems of keeping multiple languages translation in sync. It is also possible this message was served up from a server way rather than being actually multiple translations in a single container on the file system (I didn’t view the page source). Regardless, why bother? The users working language is known.

As for those message numbers (Message 3005), are users expected to look them up and act? Generally in the enterprise applications space these numbers are only useful to help desk or support personnel or specialized functional administrators with the right security permissions to actually do something with the application in response to looking up what that number means in a knowledge base. In this case, looking up the number leads to frustration too.

Dealing with these generic application failure issues has long been a user experience issue. If would have been better to throw a shorter specific message in my working language was shown, one with a more precise title, a cause text that reflected what I was doing, and a precise action text to perform to fix the issue. An assurance that my money and other personal details were safe too should have been provided. Making that message number and some diagnostics available on demand only, and capturing any details in the background so that a security specialist or other help desk person could check that none of my data was compromised would have been preferable. At least I was not told to contact my system administrator, so I am thankful for that!

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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