Usability Issues of Enterprise Users from Europe and Americas Overlap

Anna Wichansky, Senior Director, Applications User Experience, and Chair, Oracle Usability Advisory Board

Anna Wichansky

What do European enterprise software customers have in common with those "across the pond?" For the most part, it may be their usability issues.

On May 5, 2010, we hosted the founders meeting of the Oracle Usability Advisory board - Europe (OUAB-Europe), with 16 Oracle customers from Western and Central Europe. Customers and Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) managers traveled to Thames Valley Park, Oracle's facility in Reading, UK for the event.

In terms of their organizational characteristics, Euro board members were similar but not identical to their Americas counterparts. Most were either information technology or functional managers in their respective organizations. Many of their corporations were large (over 100,000 employees, over 100 million customers). They also represented large consulting organizations performing implementations for customers on E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, and Siebel platforms. There were several public sector corporations in which the government takes a hand in sponsorship and administration, as well as a city government.

Lulit Bezuayehu, Oracle Principal Usability Engineer, and Debra Lilley, OUAB-Europe Member for Fujitsu, at the founders meeting held in Reading, UK, May 5, 2010

Consistency, search, and localization of the interface are key concerns

What's the same and what's different about their usability issues?

  • Most issues were tied to consistency and design of the user interface, and performance and integration of enterprise applications.
  • A new area was product localization and languages. There was more feedback about localized products using the wrong terminology for specific application functions than mistranslations.
  • In Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, customers appreciated the flexibility of Web-based products but regretted the lack of correspondence between user interface designs of the Web and forms applications, and occasional loss of functionality following transition to the Web.
  • Customers wanted a common user interface for search throughout their applications, preferably a single field in the same location no matter where they had navigated.
  • There is a high priority placed on usability in European countries, driven by a cultural aesthetic that appreciates quality and fine design, the importance of ergonomics, labor unions, and government regulations.
  • A greater number of customers had customized their applications to improve their usability. As a result, more experienced difficulty with upgrades.

We are currently following up on the specific feedback of these customers through our development counterparts at Oracle. Oracle executives for the various applications platforms are receiving briefings on issues detailed by product release. UX managers in charge of next-generation products are also verifying these won't be issues for new products.

We are very grateful to our European board founders for leading this effort to take usability to a whole new level through industry, government, and university collaboration. Next time, the OUAB- Americas and OUAB-Europe boards will meet in San Francisco at Oracle OpenWorld 2010, for a joint business luncheon and to plan their 2010 activities together.

For a customer perspective on this meeting, see Debra Lilley's blog.


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