Monday Mar 25, 2013

How to Develop Great Oracle Applications User Experiences with Design Patterns

Enterprise application software development is all about being smart with architecture and methodology as well as knowing your code. Best practices such as using software design patterns for the abstraction of UI from logic (for example, the object oriented Abstract Factory and Decorator design patterns) are great reusable solutions and productivity enhancers that developers already rock with.

Oracle ADF developers will already be familiar with the concept of separating UI and logic, abstraction, and reuse through the underlying Model View Controller and Java EE patterns of ADF, the declarative componentization of ADF Faces, skinning, and perhaps most strikingly by the code-once for different platforms paradigm of ADF Mobile.

ADF and Applications UX design patterns and guidelines built the Fusion Apps UX

The ADF components and guidelines and Oracle Fusion Applications patterns and guidelines used by Oracle
as the building blocks for the Oracle Fusion Applications UX are used by customers and partners to
build great applications customizations and extensions too.

Design Patterns and Applications Development

Enterprise software architecture patterns make for productive development while providing for enterprise requirements of scalability, performance, security, and maintenance. It also enables customers and partners to take advantage of a great user experience (UX). UI or platform changes? No problem...

UX design patterns are the interaction (or usability, if you like) equivalent of software architectural design patterns. True to the design pattern concept, UX design patterns, too, are common reusable solutions. Based on ADF component usage guidelines and insight into how users work, the Oracle Fusion Applications UX design patterns mean that ADF developers can now go much further than writing code, by building a great user experience for applications users.

The UX design patterns can also be used to solve usability design problems in applications developed using other technology frameworks, and you can see them at work in Oracle applications (Oracle EBS, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel, and so on) too.

Proving the Development Benefits of Design Patterns

Using these already tested UX design patterns enables productive development (why sweat the UI or usability on top of code issues?). Applying them to a scalable and flexible enterprise software architecture means continued ROI for apps customers who can continue to uptake advances in functionality through a consistent, compelling, modern applications user experience.

BS theory? No. I came across a compelling design pattern methodology story recently of how an Oracle E-Business Suite customization based on UI abstraction was built with Oracle ADF and BEPL by a partner, Innowave Technologies. The Oracle Fusion Applications UX design patterns provided the UI for the underlying logic (a user experience based on a UI Shell with dynamic tabs as the transactional work area as it happens).

Dynamic tabs guideline

Dynamic tabs work area guidelines from Oracle Applications User Experience.
Dynamic tabs are a great usability solution for multi-tasking users who like to work flexibly.

Basheer Khan, Innowave Technologies CEO told me “An excellent proof point of using UX design patterns on an abstracted UI was that our client upgraded functionality from one EBS release to the next while we built their apps modules. We were then able to connect the users into the latest functionality seamlessly.”

A solid architecture of UI abstraction and UX design patterns means Oracle Applications customers can now upgrade versions of Oracle applications and have a smooth path to coexistence and eventual full Oracle Fusion Applications adoption. The loose coupling of UI and functionality approach means development and QA efficiencies with the result of a shorter time to go live. Instead of business downtime with loss of productivity for users, there is painless user  adoption and performance delivered from the proven productive and consistent UX solutions of design patterns. Basheer continues:

“CIOs are enthusiastic that they can have an upgrade smooth path for upgrades that also gives their users a compelling and modern UX along the way.”

So, if you’re an applications customer, or on the journey to Fusion, think about how Oracle technology and UX together provides a roadmap for continued ROI from your applications regardless of deployment model.

Smart partners like Basheer’s are ready to provide such ROI to customers, and he tells me “By default the Innowave team leverages the design patterns, it’s become part of our culture now to add usability to functionality. It helps us differentiate our approach from other partners.”

Productive Cloud Development

As chief evangelist for the UX design patterns story I tell our customers, partners and the development community about how design patterns are created and the benefits of using them. I love stories like Innowave Technologies’; it’s when I see the story happen in the wild that I really feel like we’ve moved to the next phase of the UX design pattern proposition. And it’s still evolving: moving to the cloud and ever-fluid development with our toolkit, with customers demanding the best of what Oracle technology offers as well as great UX, means techniques such as abstraction of UIs and UX design patterns will become even more important to developers.

Cloud-based development using  hot-pluggable remote task flows, web services, and APIs is the way to go for competitive enterprise application uptake in the cloud, but apps users still demand a UI they know and want to use! So, as the cloud development community accelerates through the trajectory of not writing UIs, but writing UI services instead, they can turn to the UX design patterns as the front-end usability solution for the cloud development model. We’re done the usability thinking so that cloud developers don’t have to.

How to Find UX Design Patterns

To get going with the UX design patterns, go to the Usable Apps website and find the For Developers section. And, for more UX developer enablement, such as for the building great looking usable apps workshops and helping ADF developers to build great enterprise applications, keep coming back to Voice of User Experience (VOX) blog, or follow along with the latest and greatest on Twitter (@usableapps).

Sunday Mar 17, 2013

Siebel Open UI on Full Throttle with Uma Welingkar: Free, Shared Resources

By Misha Vaughan, Oracle Applications User Experience

The Siebel team has been hard at work delivering a platform for Siebel customers to tailor their end users’ applications experience. To this end, the team's just posted a bunch of super-helpful training documents, for free, for any Siebel Tools user.

Alexander Hansal of the Siebel Essentials blog did a lovely job of laying out the motivations (user experience, simplicity, and usability) behind Siebel Open UI. But this post is about the other story, the tools story. A good tools story on UX is always near and dear to my heart, so I talked with Uma Welingkar, Senior Director of Siebel Product Management, to find out what’s behind the release of the content.

Siebel Open UI TOI site

Siebel Open UI Transfer of Information (TOI) is available on Oracle University, a public channel. No login is required, and anyone can access the information.

Misha Vaughan: Why did you decide to make this Siebel content available?

Uma Welingkar:  Just to give background, we put these TOIs out for internal use. We realized that we had a lot of customers clamoring for this additional information, to get started with Open UI.  So we put these out on Oracle University (OU). The TOIs are not complete, but there is enough information to get you started installing, configuring, and making little changes.

In Open UI, we changed the framework from a compile time to a run time model.  It allows customers to re-skin the UI on top of Siebel. The questions we got internally were the same questions customers were asking, because they wanted to go deeper than what we had in our documentation. So we decided to pull some of the information together. We took our own product management and engineering content, it’s not beautiful, but it’s great for our customers to pick up and get started with. We've seen an Open UI forum on LinkedIn where partners and customers are sharing together.

We talk about the technical aspects, as well as some insight into how to make the changes. For example, how to make changes around the UI controls, how to build mobile applications, and about style sheets, as well. We realized the first thing they needed to do was install the innovation pack. We decided to put it all together, the steps of installing the fix pack, and then next was a document on the specific function of the UI. We have seen a huge uptake of this, 400 hits a week right now, for each piece of collateral. We are seeing a constant uptake on these pieces. These are free presentations hosted through OU, as well as the recording of the presentation. They're self-study modules.

MV:  There is an Open UI Functional Overview presentation available. What kind of detail should folks expect to see if they dip into this?

UW:  This presentation talks about the functionality that was changed, for example:

  • List of values.
  • How the description field behaves in Open UI compared with the High Interactivity (HI) UI.
  • How smart script behaves.
  • The changes that we did to the call telephony interface (CTI) toolbar.

Calculator control in Open UI

Siebel 8.1.1.9 Open UI with calculator control.

MV: There is also an Open UI Deployment and Architecture Overview presentation. Can you give us a preview of what’s in this?

UW:   We talk about what has changed in the UI framework: How does it work?  How does it render? What changes you have to make. How they work together, the High Interactivity UI (ActiveX) and Open UI? What were the underlying framework changes? There are some slides specifically on the architecture before and after, and how the changes to the architecture help our customers.
Siebel ActiveX and Open UI compared

Side-by-side comparison of Siebel High Interactivity UI (ActiveX) with Siebel Open UI (click to enlarge).
Open UI's simplification and look and feel is optimized for user interaction across different browsers, and is enabled for tailoring to very high degree by customers and integrators.

MV: There is a presentation on Siebel mobile applications functionality. Can you tell me more about this one?

UW:   We have a new item on our Siebel price list. The new Siebel mobile application covers sales, service, consumer goods, and pharma. So, the functional TOI covers what is part of the product and the different processes that are enabled as well as how to configure additional views.  

We have built out-of-the box views for running on the mobile applications. It will also cover how you extend it, for fields or views, and build functionality that users are looking for. It's very similar to configuring a Siebel application on a desktop; it gives you all those pieces as well.

Siebel Open UI on iPad
 Siebel Sales iPad app built with Open UI.

MV:  What about the Siebel Open UI Calendar Functional Overview presentation?

UW:  The Siebel calendar has been revamped with the Open UI. We have built a lot more utility around the calendar options.  It covers both functionally what is available in the product now, as well as what can be done to configure it.  


Open UI Calendar

Calendar has been revamped with Siebel Open UI. An event driven UX, legends, and great locale customizations and user preference settings are available.

MV: How are customers responding to Open UI?

UW: A lot of customers across the different areas are starting to use Open UI in the U.S. and APAC. They have taken 8.1.1.9, to run both HI and Open UI at the same time. A lot of their production users can be on HI, and then they can move a subset of users to Open UI.  

Within the first week, we had 1,000 downloads of the product when we put the patch up for Open UI. There has been a lot of anticipation around this.   

MV: Can you talk about your enterprise applications history?

UW: I am originally from the Siebel acquisition.  I was at Siebel in 1997; I grew up with Siebel.  I have been with the product since Release 3.0. The one thing that I have seen is a lot of customers who have grown with us as well. Almost every customer that I talk to is so excited about the new UI. It’s gratifying to be able to hear that, especially being with the product for so long. 

Want to learn more about Siebel Open UI? 

See all the free courses available on Oracle University on Siebel Open UI.

There is also the accessibility features discussed in the Open UI Usability and Accessibility presentation (accessibility features are amongst the most powerful in Open UI).

Check out the Siebel Essentials Blog for lots more juicy tidbits on Open UI.

Attend the live, virtual training event April 10, 2013 10am-5pm (EDT).

Tuesday Mar 05, 2013

Oracle Endeca User Experience: From Putting the E in E-Commerce to Magical Information Discovery

"Beer." Mark Burrell, Director of User Experience for Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, tells me the apocryphal story of the technology’s origins. “Some Princeton friends were struggling to find a commemorative beer on eBay. They concluded that humans should be able to easily find their way around messy, dynamic information." Using facets (or attributes) to navigate through self-describing, unstructured data, ones that could relate to each other, was the answer:

"Say you’re on a home repairs web site, searching for a washer. Endeca facets would let you discover if it is in appliances, in dishwashers, to find it by style, by size, and so on. Facets summarize the data and guide users in a way that makes sense to their world."

It’s been a rollercoaster ride since the founding "beer quest", with Endeca taking off as an industry leader in the e-commerce and information access world, followed by Oracle acquisition in 2011. Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is a real game changer for the enterprise, now answering million-dollar questions:

Answering that Million Dollar Question with Oracle Endeca

Consumerization of Analytics

I was gobsmacked that Mark designed the faceted search for the Irish car website carzone.ie. “Those horizontal sliders on price tested brilliantly. People even play with it” (I have!). Mark’s an evangelist for what user experience really means; his use of personal technology is one of problem solving in new, smart ways. He mentions using LinkedIn to discover professional relationships. Trulia’s faceted information for finding real estate by school district, commutes, and comparing buying and renting options impresses him. Pandora streaming Internet radio service is a fave for his music, with suggestions that are pure “serendipitous discovery”. And then there’s MIT’s Scratch, “computer programming made easy”. He loves the idea of snapping together components, enabling people to build cool stuff, fast.

This story of easily building magical experiences with stunning visualizations to make sense of a virtual world of information and discover new things is right there in the Endeca user experience, too. Mark tells me how Endeca technology explored a very large corpus of published medical data and discovered relationships between asthma and poverty and cockroaches when visualized as a tag cloud. I wonder how long such discovery would have taken, it at all, by manually poring over spreadsheets?

It’s “the consumerization of analytics. We’re in the age of insight,” says Mark.

How Oracle Endeca Information Discovery Works

At the back end, the Endeca engine indexes data, assigns metadata, and exposes salient terms and clusters of information as navigational facets. This provides for a layer of different visualizations and tools to let users easily explore the information.

Sure, traditional business intelligence, dashboards, analytics and so on, have been around for 20 years or more, but fundamentally they’re about the “how” – what formulas are used to show KPIs, for example. Endeca goes beyond that into the “why” of information, the “sweet spot” for decision makers, says Mark.

It’s the “magical” Endeca front end user experience with its visually compelling way of engaging the right users in the discovery of insight from the right information that enables great decisions and timely action, while measuring the results – conversion rates for example – and showing ROI.

For customizers, those great user experiences come easy. The Oracle Endeca Information Discovery Studio combined with a componentized architecture and baked-in best practices are the secret. Creating a geo-spatial visual UX, a cloud tag, or heat map for your data is simple.

Designing a Fully Functional Endeca Page in Minutes

Endeca user experience is based on some of the best interaction design patterns I’ve seen, informed by the power of their technology, design expertise and the consumerized expectations of users living and working in an increasingly mobile and social world of shopping and sharing on the go.

The Business of Information Discovery

Broadly, information discovery product use cases are everywhere. For example, with Endeca, a CPG company can understand what products are performing, in what markets, regions, and what users are saying and how they feel about products, vital in the social world of customer experience.

Oracle Endeca Information Discovery for Workforce: How a HR executive discovers the facts behind the rumors of workers leaving.

Endeca product offerings are represented by Oracle Endeca Information Discovery (for business intelligence and  discovery of any type of information), as well as great e-commerce solutions with Oracle Endeca Customer Experience Manager and Oracle ATG, for example. The ease of use and integration capability makes the experience of working with existing Oracle applications even better too. Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is seamlessly integrated with Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.3 to deliver superior data discovery with killer usability, matched by high performance and mobile capability too. 

Introduction to Oracle Endeca and Oracle E-Business Suite

Big Data versus Bad Data

Clearly, Endeca is a Big Data sense maker, but I mention the problem of bad data and how analytics is this regard can become be lipstick on a pig. Mark counters that Endeca discovery “describes” data for users,  enabling them to multiselect from points of interest. This “amazes customers; they can still explore their data and select what’s important”, he says.

New Interactions for Discovery

Mobile is a big opportunity for Endeca information discovery, especially for tablets Mark feels because of their form factor and the gestures and other device capabilities possible. Exploring a heat map with your fingertips, for example. Those Minority Report movie customer experience (CX) references that everyone likes to use, and offer so much promise, can now be brought to life in your hand, if you like.

Start Discovering Endeca

Developers and user experience aficionados who want to get started with Oracle Endeca Information Discovery should go to the YouTube channel and to the learning information on OTN. To find out more about Endeca applications check out oracle.com.

Thanks to Mark for the magical insights, and for tell us how Oracle Endeca makes information discovery easy and fun. Watch this space…

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