Tuesday Jul 15, 2014

Portrait of a Technology Artist: Smart Cropping

By Joe Goldberg, Ph.D., CPE, Chief Research Scientist, Oracle Applications User Experience

Sometimes it’s the little things that make or break a user experience.

Consider a common scenario: You’ve just found the perfect image of yourself and uploaded it to your employee profile page. After a page refresh, your headshot is cropped to fit the vertical aspect ratio of its container frame. The only problem: The right side of your face is now missing because the technology cropped the upper left of the image. Unless you want to be mistaken for a Cyclops, you now must manually re-crop in Photoshop, or whatever’s handy, and upload again, hoping for better results.

U.S. Dept of State Online Passport Application Picture Cropping Tool

Personal images are used widely in applications on the web, from social media profiles to human capital management portraits and public sector IDs. Note this tool from the U.S. Department of State’s passport application website.

What’s needed is a way to crop headshots so that faces remain fully intact.

Smart Cropping does just that. This Oracle Applications User Experience prototype feature automatically finds a person’s face in an image and then pads and crops the image to a desired aspect ratio so that the face is at the center of the cropped image. The technology that underlies Smart Cropping is OpenCV, an open-source computer vision library now being used extensively in consumer applications, such as cameras and cars.

OpenCV uses Haar Cascades from previously trained decision tree-based classifiers to rapidly find the coordinates of any faces in an image. This computer vision technology is transparent to the end user, who now enjoys perfect face cropping.

Smartcropping feature correctly detects and centers the image for the optimal portrait

The image on the left shows a headshot that is horizontally centered, but vertically above the image’s center. The image on the right shows the output of the Smart Cropping feature, where the image is both horizontally and vertically centered.

OpenCV is a great example of how the energies of the open source development community, scientific UX insight, and consumerization of technology come together to meet user expectations about how things should work in an easy and familiar way to solve a common problem. This alignment of the social and scientific stars underwrites the Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) design principles.

Visit the Usable Apps website to find out more about how you can participate in shaping our UX and how to build great solutions using the same techniques and science that OUAX uses.

Interested in discovering more?

Monday Jul 14, 2014

Oracle Social Network: Enabling Employee Engagement with Oracle Cloud Services

Julien Laforêt (@julienlaforet), Procurement Sales Consultant, Oracle Social Network Business Leader, and User Experience Sales Ambassador tells us how the Oracle Social Network Cloud Service enables employee engagement and helps attract and maintain talent.

A recent Gallup poll revealed that 70% of employees surveyed disliked their jobs or were so completely disengaged that even incentives and extras were not sufficient to improve how they felt about work.

Disengaged employees means trouble for businesses in many areas

Can't contribute, won't contribute. Disengaged employees means the entire business suffers.

This statistic is important because we know that employees who are disengaged:

  • Do not exceed growth goals 
  • Rarely contribute to innovation  
  • Frequently limit their productivity 
  • Often share their thoughts and feelings on social media internally and externally, which contributes to negative publicity about the company 
  • Sometimes, they leave the company, meaning a loss of investment, incurred cost of replacement, and so on 

But, engaged and happy employees participate in ways that often yields more opportunities for the company itself to be successful, and opens the door to other talented people who are attracted to similar  high levels of work satisfaction.

Social media is a key that may help improve employee satisfaction and engagement. In this blog, we look at how to use it to enable positive employee engagement and results.

Communicating Internally

For any employee, growing their skills and knowledge, promoting their expertise and their successes, and collaborating across teams and networks in the company are important activities. These foster community and collaboration, a feeling of belonging to something larger than their current projects.

Most of the time, these kinds of growth opportunities and acknowledgements have only been possible in small social circles, for example, direct-line managers and immediate colleagues. How do you promote your employees to people in other regions or services?

Oracle Social Network allows people to connect and share in scalable, effective ways. It allows employees to create networks and:

  • Showcase their value and share their successes and expertise  
  • Participate in the life of the company: create, innovate, participate, share, improve  
  • Reduce the time spent managing emails and performing administrative tasks

Oracle Social Network Cloud Service

Showcasing Value and Sharing Successes

With public conversations on Oracle Social Network, an employee can create knowledge communities where all employees can contribute. Participating is easier than ever as employees uses the Oracle Social Network global search to quickly find people and conversations that align with their areas of interest, and then follow those people or join those conversations at any time.

Creating and Innovating

Oracle Social Network makes collaboration easy, reinforcing employees, their knowledge, and contributions as assets to a company. With employees creating, innovating, or proposing ideas, companies are more successful, employees feel valued, and unique talents of contributors are showcased in teams engaged in product innovation and competitor-killing ideas.

Nike, Inc. follows a similar model for their customers. Customers can propose designs for shoes, and the best “liked” designs might be awarded and launched in production, encourages customer engagement. Applied to employees, the model reveals that creative thinking and innovation is not limited to the R&D department in your company. Developing better products and refining processes and innovation through collaboration social process is game changer in a competitive business world.

Reducing Time Spent Managing Administrative Tasks

Oracle Social Network allows contributors to publish information to their walls and in conversations dedicated to a topic, where only followers and conversation members interested in the conversation participate. Unlike email notes distributed widely, using Oracle Social Network to publish information on walls instead allows employees to manage information overload and flooded inboxes. Information is published in dedicated identifiable conversations, easily located by employees who are empowered to join in. The conversation history is accessible to newcomers so that they can find everything that has been said earlier, a practice that prevents knowledge from being lost when employees leave a company, and it enables new employees to ramp up quickly.

Only Oracle Social Network allows private, secure conversations to be initiated directly from business applications and enables two-way tracking: from Oracle Social Network conversations to the original transaction and data in the application, and from the application to conversations related to a transaction or related data.

Initiating an OSN Conversation from an Application task flow

Initiating an OSN Conversation from inside an Oracle Applications Cloud task flow 

This practice removes the administrative overhead of exchanging information outside of the application's transactions, which occurs in disconnected silos, such as conversations between the requester and the buyer, project or transaction summary emails, reminders, and so on. Conversations in Oracle Social Network are contextual.

Employees can participate in business transaction-related conversations securely, too. Conversations may be private and information can be exchanged securely and in confidence among members of those conversations authorized to have such access.

OSN on simplified UI

Oracle Social Network is a great solution for tablets too. Oracle Applications Cloud Release 8 simplified UI shown. 

When you start using Oracle Social Network, you just might find yourself asking, “How did we run our business before Oracle Social Network?” Just like smartphones revolutionized our everyday lives, Oracle Social Network will revolutionize your everyday work-life for the better.

Monday Jul 07, 2014

Designing a Naturally Conversational User Experience for the User Interface

By Georgia Price and Karen Scipi

Think about the software applications you like most. Why do you like them? How do they make you feel? What is your experience like when you use them? The most successful user interfaces—those that delight users—focus equally on the intersection of visual, interaction, and language design.

Visual and interaction design get a lot of play in the enterprise software development environment. Yet language design directly impacts a user’s ability to complete tasks. The use and arrangement of general words, specialized terms, and phrases on the UI promote a naturally conversational voice and tone and inform and induce user actions.

Simply put, the words, terms, and phrases that we promote on a UI either facilitate or hinder the user experience and either delight or frustrate the user.

As Oracle Applications User Experience language designers, we took this message on the road last month as featured speakers at the Society for Technical Communications Summit, where we presented two papers: Designing Effective User Interface Content and The Unadorned Truth About Terminology Management: Initiatives, Practices, and Melodrama.

Society for Technical Communication Summit logo

If attendance is any indication, our message resonated with many. More than 115 people gathered to hear us talk about how designing language for the UI is just as important when building effective, simplified user experiences as creating the right interactions and choosing the right images, icons, colors, and fonts. Dozens lined up after our talks to ask questions and to learn more, making us realize that many others who build software applications  are also grappling with how to design language to enable more simplified user experiences.

Perhaps we can pique your interest! Over the coming weeks, we'll share our thoughts and experiences on language design. Stay tuned to the Usable Apps blog to learn more about what language design is and how we use words, terms, and phrases, as well as voice and tone, to help build simplified user experiences and easy-to-understand UIs.

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