Thursday Apr 17, 2014

General Availability: Simplified User Experience Design Patterns eBook

The Oracle Applications User Experience team is delighted to announce that our Simplified User Experience Design Patterns for the Oracle Applications Cloud Service eBook is available for free

Simplified UI eBook

The Simplified User Experience Design Patterns for the Oracle Applications Cloud Service eBook

We’re sharing the same user experience design patterns, and their supporting guidance on page types and Oracle ADF components that Oracle uses to build simplified user interfaces (UIs) for the Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud, with you so that you can build your own simplified UI solutions.

Click to register and download your free copy of the eBook.

Design patterns offer big wins for applications builders because they are proven, reusable, and based on Oracle technology. They enable developers, partners, and customers to design and build the best user experiences consistently, shortening the application's development cycle, boosting designer and developer productivity, and lowering the overall time and cost of building a great user experience.

Now, Oracle partners, customers and the Oracle ADF community can share further in the Oracle Applications User Experience science and design expertise that brought the acclaimed simplified UIs to the Cloud and they can build their own UIs, simply and productively too!

The Drive To Visualize Data: Dashboards

Introduction: Cars and Context

Like many people of a certain age, my first exposure to the term dashboard was when I heard my dad using it when driving the car. He referred to it as “the dash”.

Dad’s “dash” was an analog affair that told him the car’s speed, the miles traveled, the engine oil level and temperature, if he had enough gas in the tank, and a few other little bits of basic information. It was all whirring dials, trembling needle pointers on clock-style faces, switches to toggle on and off, a couple of sliders, and little lights that blinked when there was trouble.

Drivers in those days needed to pay attention, all the time, to their dashboards.

Ford dashboard from the 1970s

Old school car dashboards: quaint and charming. And a lot of work. (Source: WikiMedia Commons)

Dashboards in cars, and how drivers use them, are different now. The days of a dashboard with switches to flick or dials to turn are gone.

Today, a family car generates hundreds of megabytes of data every second. Most of this data is discarded immediately, and is not useful to the driver, but some is and may even be life saving. Technology makes sense of the surging data so that drivers can respond easily to important information because it’s presented to them in a timely, easily consumed, and actionable way.

Car dashboards are now closer to the “glass cockpit” world that fighter jet pilots experience. Cars have tiny sensors, even cameras, and other technology inside and outside the vehicle that detect and serve up striking digital visualizations about the health of the car and driver performance. Drivers are empowered to be “situationally aware” about what’s going on (what us UXers would call “context”), as they listen to or watch for signals and cues and respond to them naturally, using voice, for example.

Some car dashboards even use heads-up displays, projecting real-time information onto the windshield. Drivers know what’s going on with their car without taking their eyes off the road.

Chevrolet Camaro Heads-up Display

Chevrolet Corvette Heads-up Display (Source: www.chevrolet.com)

Dashboard design itself is now the essence of simplicity and cutting edge technology, and stylish with it too, arising passions about what makes a great interface inside a car. It’s all part of creating an experience to engage drivers for competitive advantage in a tight automobile market.

Tesla Model S Dashboard

Tesla Model S Dashboard (Source: www.teslamotors.com)

The Emergence of Digital Dashboards User Experience

When it comes to software applications and websites, dashboards are around us everywhere too. We’re all long familiar with how such dashboards work and how to use them, beginning with the pioneering My Yahoo! portal that popularized the use of the “My” pronoun in web page titles, right through to today’s wearable apps dashboards that are a meisterwerk of information visualization, integrating social media and gamification along the way.

Fitbit Dashboard (Author's own)

FitBit Dashboard (Source: Author)

An enterprise application dashboard is a one-stop shop of information. It’s a page made up of portlets or regions, chunking up related information into displays of graphs, charts, and graphics of different kinds. Dashboards visualize a breadth of information that spans a whole range of activities in a functional area.

Dashboards aggregate data into meaningful visual displays and cues, using processor horsepower at the backend to do the work that users used to do with notepads, calculators or spreadsheets to find what out what’s changed or in need of attention.

Dashboards enable users to prioritize work and to manage exceptions by taking light-weight actions immediately from the page, or to drill down to explore and do more in a transactional or analytics work area, if necessary.

The dashboard concept remains a core part of the enterprise applications user experience, particularly for work roles that rely on monitoring of information, providing reports on performance, or needing a range of information to make well-timed and high-level decisions.

Developing Dashboards

In work, we now also have to deal with that other torrent of data we hear about: big data. Dashboards are ideal ways to make sense of this data and to represent the implications of its analysis to a viewer, bringing insight to users rather than the other way around.

To this end, Oracle provides enterprise application developers with the Oracle ADF Data Visualization Tools (DVT) components to build dashboards using data in the cloud, and with design guidance in the form of the Oracle Fusion Applications, Oracle Endeca and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition UI patterns and guidelines for making great-looking dashboards.

Fusion Apps Desktop UI Dashboard

Typical Oracle Fusion Applications Desktop UI Dashboard (Source: Oracle)

Beyond Desktop Dashboards…

Dashboards’ origins as a desktop UI concept obviously predated the “swipe and pinch” world of mobility, today’s cross-device, flexible way of working with shared data in the cloud. Sure, we still have a need for what dashboards were originally about. But, we now need new ways for big data to be organized and visualized. We need solutions that reflect our changing work situations--our context --so that we that we can act on the information quickly, using a tablet or a smart phone, or whatever’s optimal. And, we need new ways of describing this dashboard user experience.

Enter the era of “glance, scan, and commit”, a concept that we will explore in a future Usable Apps blog.

Thursday Jan 09, 2014

Oracle Applications User Experience and AMIS: Applied Vision and Strategy Together

AMIS Logo

The folks on the AMIS team have always knocked me out whenever they cross my path at conferences, user group meetings, and events such as Oracle OpenWorld. Their participation is always in demand. With their deep know-how about Oracle technology and a commitment to the business benefits of user experience, AMIS really “gets it.”

AMIS is a leading powerhouse when it comes to building solutions using Oracle Applications Development Framework (ADF) and is always eager to learn more about how to expand its possibilities and offer more. For these reasons, it was no surprise to see AMIS at the Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) expo held at OpenWorld 2013. Oracle ACE Director and AMIS Services CTO Lucas Jellema commented after the event:

“The expo provided out of the box thinking and inspiration with regards to the interaction between business users and computers and IT systems in general. It suggested approaches that are both realistic as well as fun. It also instilled a certain confidence that Oracle is really onto something with UX, and we are betting our money on the right horse.”

This March, OAUX and AMIS will take their relationship to a higher level, bringing a user experience and technology expo event to Nieuwegein in the Netherlands and sharing with others the latest thinking and concepts on user interface design and user experience.

Learn about simplicity, mobility, and extensibility at the UX event.

Simplicity, mobility, and the extensibility of applications, all built with Oracle technology, along with the latest device trends and integrations in the cloud will be some of the innovations that demonstrate the OUAX vision and strategy at the AMIS-hosted expo.

Oracle customers, partners, industry experts, and invited guests will get to see the latest user experience innovations built using Oracle technology that provides modern and compelling applications to enable today's workers to be more productive than ever.

This event is about engaging with, and inspiring, a broad set of stakeholders in the enterprise information technology ecosystem by showing off the result of Oracle’s investment in UX and the thought leadership, passion, and vision that drives the simplicity, mobility, and extensibility of applications used in today’s enterprises.

AMIS will also share what it takes to be a leading Oracle knowledge partner, what this partnership means for partner business and for clients seeking solutions with Oracle ADF, and what it takes to be a respected voice in the enterprise methodology world of applications development.

See you in the Netherlands. Who knows what secrets will be revealed about the future of UX and Oracle technology!

Details of the event, including registration, are on the AMIS website. (Dutch version)

Saturday Dec 07, 2013

Simple to Use. Simple to Build. Simple to Sell: Apps UX Enables Oracle Partners in the UK

Just back from Manchester, in the UK, where the Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) team (with Oracle Worldwide Alliances and Channels) held an outreach and communications event for Oracle PartnerNetwork members, this one aimed at applications pre-sale teams.

These events are all about sharing the UX message, partner learning, and an opportunity for networking and relationship building. But, they're a two-way exercise. Applications UX get to understand local market requirements and to respond with the right message and resources for customers and partners. Attendees tell it to us straight about how to make sales deals happen, and the insight we get from pitch-back sessions where attendees use those UX messages as part of their own sales stories is invaluable.

Julien Laforêt of Oracle France delivers a sales pitch based on OSN integration with Oracle Cloud Applications

Our latest UX Sales Ambassador Julien Laforêt (@julienlaforet) of Oracle France pitches a compelling social integration message to an engaged audience. Sold!

Learning and Listening

In Manchester, attendees learned the UX fundamentals of our Cloud applications, how to communicate the business benefits of our UX science, and identify enduring return on investment for customers. For example, one big win is the simplicity with which our Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle HCM Cloud simplified UI applications (available now in Release 7) can not only be used out of the box without training, but easily customized and extended using composers to meet customer business requirements, too. It’s simple to build on that great UX, without needing a major IT project.

The Applications UX team were listening. We heard how important social network integration is to applications customers, the must-haves for ease of use and tailoring, how regional customers must have those  localizations to do business, PaaS partner applications integration drivers, the enablement of continued ROI for coexisting applications, the need to address productivity needs of heads-down workers, getting that UX message out to Oracle Forms customers, meeting public sector procurement requirements, and more. Mobile apps were a very hot topic too, and our demoing of two Oracle apps (Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle Cloud Applications) live and showing off the latest mobile toolkit wiki of Oracle Mobile Application Development Framework (ADF) components and UX design patterns hit the target.

Ultan O'Broin demos Oracle EBS Mobile Field Service

Live demo of the Oracle E-Business Suite Mobile Field Service app by Ultan O’Broin (@ultan) (Springboard UX design pattern shown on screen).

Applications UX showed and shared demos for applications desktop and mobile UIs, all built using UX design patterns and Oracle ADF, and delivered the latest info on the Simplified UI Release 7 applications and how to use composers to extend those applications. We also revealed emerging innovations and business cases, demoing wearables, for example. The CRM Google Glass app was a big hit!

Noel Portugal demos Fusion CRM app on Google Glass

Noel Portugal (@noelportugal) demonstrates a CRM app live on Google Glass.

Getting Involved 

So, customers, developers, customers, are you preparing to join us in 2014? Watch out for more enablement events coming to your country or region next year. Stay tuned to the Voice of User Experience (VOX) blog and to @usableapps on Twitter for the latest details.

See you signed up for one of our communications and outreach events in 2014!

Saturday Nov 16, 2013

Building Mobile Apps with Oracle UX and ADF Mobile Made Easy: Design Wiki Available

The Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) Mobile and Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) teams have published a wiki for builders of mobile apps for tablets and smartphones using enterprise methodology. Bookmark the wiki now!

The wiki provides Oracle developers, customers and partners with a mobile toolkit  enabling the building of great mobile apps for today's workers who demand modern, consumer-like UX while being productive in completing tasks. Check out the information on the Oracle ADF Mobile components and their usage, and how the UX design patterns dovetail with the technology to provide reusable, easily applied solutions for developers. The design guidance now includes content and gestures, and the integration of device features such as voice and camera capabilities. 

ADF Mobile Design enables code once solutions for platforms and devices

Oracle ADF Mobile enables productive building through code-once solutions for platforms and devices.

There is some great task flow explanations too. Using a sample sales app, the wiki shows how tasks and device features are best designed to reflect the requirements for both tablet and smart phone users.

Watch out for more developer productivity resources and outreach coming from the Oracle Applications User Experience,  Oracle ADF, and Oracle PartnerNetwork teams. And, if you're in a position to share the results of these shared Oracle ADF and UX resources by telling us about your built mobile apps and use cases, reach out using the comments or through the customer participation channels on the Usable Apps website and let us know.

We'll share the UX goodness and you can share your greatness!

Visual Design for Any Enterprise UI with ODTUG: UX Questions Answered

The Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG) webinar on the Visual Design for any Enterprise UI was a great success with nearly 150 participants signed up. The Oracle Applications User Experience team is delivering a series of webinars through ODTUG on building great-looking, usable apps, and the visual design subject, along the one coming up on wireframing, is always a crowd puller. The visual design webinar is branding-centric, a fun subject, topical, and something we can all relate to, so it's a great way to learn how to make a great enterprise UI for your customers and clients. 

You can read more about the webinar content on the Usable Apps blog, but it is always fresh, this time updated to include insights on Facebook colors, the Yahoo! logo, those Apple iOS7 icons, and measuring usability and visual design. Applications user experience is all about being modern and compelling, and if it's hot in UX, and relevant to enterprise UX enablement, we're on it!

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Oracle ADF 12c Data Visualization Sunburst Component

There was a lively question and answer session at the end of the webinar.  Athough the answer to any UX question that looks for a "yes" or "no" answer is, of course, "it depends" (hat tip: Jakob Nielsen), here's a sample:

Q: Should your designs always follow a color paradigm of a logo for say, some company?

A: Don't copy or steal, but inform yourself of branding and visual design best practices and then apply them to your enterprise UI's requirements. Adapt the best practices to communicate your key messages and to quickly "hook" the user. Before rollout, do some usability testing with representative users, and when you're live, measure the usability, and respond to feedback. Using smart coding techniques means you can make changes in a centralized, scalable way. A conservative approach is best. 

Q: Have you read the book by Edward Tufte on the visualization of quantitative information?

A: His book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is a great resource. Visualization of information is a vital UX requirement in the enterprise. You can find more information visualization guidance for free from the Oracle Applications UX team with the OBIEE Dashboard design patterns and guidelines and the Oracle Endeca UI Design Pattern Library. The Oracle ADF DVT components enable developers to be productive when building data visualization solutions.

Q: How does this (guidance) change for numeric data? For instance, can we apply these techniques to spreadsheets?

A: You can adapt these techniques for spreadsheets, yes. Lay out your information logically, use headings to organize and padding for readability, show the information in locale or common formats your users will understand, and don't overload the spreadsheet with lots of garish colors. A small number of primary colors, supported by a legend and made accessible, is best. Use readable, conservative font faces and allow users to change the viewing size if necessary. For faster access and breadth of information, consider graphs and charts visualizations with action components to then drill down into spreadsheets. Remember, Oracle ADF provides for the integration of Microsoft Excel workbooks and to detach and view application tables in Excel-like ways, too.

Q: If you are design phobic but your usability is good, should you hire?

A: If you must prioritize, then invest in a designer for icons (especially for mobile devices). Being smart with coding and leveraging technology to help you with color changes, font fallback solutions (using a centralized CSS) and so on, testing with common browsers, along with the other points covered in the webinar, make for development scale and productivity. However, as icons and graphics will most likely be binary files (let's not go there with SVG), bringing in designer expertise once-off is worth it. Remember, that its's usable websites that users consider beautiful - not the other way around - and well-designed iconography contributes to productivity and that all-important positive impression that users form rapidly. Icons are communication devices, central to your UX and the emotional engagement with your brand, so hiring a qualified artist is a wise investment to make if you can (investing in a copywriter is smart too).

Great questions! A copy of the presentation and the webinar recording is available to ODTUG members. You can ask your own questions by attending such webinars and engaging with our other outreach and events. Follow @usableapps on Twitter and the VOX blog for news of upcoming opportunities.

Sunday Oct 20, 2013

Making it GREAT! Oracle Partners Building Apps Workshop with UX and ADF in UK

Yes, making is what it's all about, with Oracle partners doing the making of great looking usable apps with the Oracle Applications Development Framework (ADF) and user experience (UX) toolkit at our workshop in the UK. And what an energy-packed and productive event at the Oracle UK (Thames Valley Park) location it was. Partners learned the fundamentals of enterprise applications UX, why it's important, all about visual design, how to wireframe designs, and then how to build their already-proven designs in ADF.

There was a day dedicated to mobile apps, learning about mobile design principles, free mobile UX and ADF resources from Oracle, and then trying it out. The workshop wrapped up with the latest Release 7 Simplified UIs, Mobilytics, and other innovations from Oracle, and a live demo of a very neat ADF Mobile Android app built by an Oracle contractor. And, what a fun two days both Grant Ronald of ADF and myself had in running the workshop with such a great audience, too!

I particularly enjoyed the wireframing and visual design sessions' interaction; and seeing some outstanding work done by partners. Of note from the UK workshop were innovative design features not seen before; making me all the happier as developers brought their own ideas from the world of consumer technology, applying strong themes of mobility, simplicity, and social to the building of work apps with enterprise development methodology. 

Partner wireframe exercise. Applying mobile design principles and UX design patterns means you're already productively making great usable apps! Next, over to Oracle ADF Mobile with it!

Partner wireframe exercise. Applying mobile design principles and UX design patterns to wireframes means you're already productively making great usable apps! Next, over to Oracle ADF Mobile with the solution!

Two simple examples from the design session for a mobile field service app illustrated this trend: Participants realized how the UX and device functionality of the super UK-based Hailo app could influence their designs (the London cabbie influence, maybe?), and the way they now used maps, cameras, barcode scanners and microphones on their smartphones could be adapted for tasks in work too. Of course, ADF Mobile has the device integration solutions to help too! I wonder will similar U.S. workshops in Silicon Valley see an Uber UX influence? (LOL!)

That we also had partners experienced with Oracle Forms who could now offer a roadmap from Forms to Simplified UI and Mobile using ADF, and do it through through the cloud, really made this particular workshop go "ZING!!!" for me.

Many thanks to the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) team for organizing this event with us, and to the representatives of the Oracle partners that showed up and participated so well. That's what I love about this outreach. It's a two-way, solid value-add for all.

Interested? Why would partners and developers with ADF skills sign up for this workshop?

Here's why:

Learn to use the Oracle Applications User Experience design patterns as the usability building blocks for applications development in Oracle Application Development Framework. The workshop enables attendees to build modern and visually compelling desktop and mobile applications that look and behave like Oracle Applications Cloud Service*, integrated with your partner applications, whether for new, or co-existing applications deployments. Partners learn to offer customers and clients more than just coded functionality; instead they can offer a complete user experience with a roadmap for continuing ROI from licensed applications while creating more business and attracting the kudos of other makers of apps as they're wowed by the evidence.

So, if you're a partner and interested in attending one of these workshops and benefitting from such learning, as well as having a platform to show off some of your own work, stay well tuned to your OPN channels, to this blog, the VoX blog, and to the @usableapps Twitter account too.

Can't wait? For developers and partners, some key mobile resources to explore now

* Oracle Applications Cloud Service is the product line name for software as service (SaaS) and On Demand versions of Oracle Fusion Applications.

Tuesday Aug 13, 2013

Building Great Looking Usable Apps Productively in Brazil

If you’re following the Usable Apps blog you’ll know that the Applications User Experience team has a great outreach program to enable Oracle customers and partners to build great looking usable apps by applying shared UX expertise from Oracle Fusion Applications with the Oracle Application Development Framework toolkit. This enablement happens worldwide, and recently the Applications UX team, together with the Oracle ADF team and Oracle PartnerNetwork held a Building Great-Looking Usable Apps workshop in São Paulo, Brazil.

Great Looking Usable Apps, São Paulo, Brazil Workshop

Some 20 partner attendees first learned about the UX principles for enterprise applications, why UX is important in business, and about visual design for enterprise UIs. Partner developers then got to try out this knowledge though fun, participatory wireframing exercises for desktop and mobile UIs, followed by bringing wireframes to life in code with collaborative hands-on building sessions using Oracle ADF with Oracle JDeveloper and UX design patterns, component guidelines, and other resources. A showcase of up-to-the-minute user experience innovations by the Applications UX team ended two days of a great return on investment for the partners' developers, consultants, analysts and leads who attended the event.

Brazil partners invitation

The event was facilitated by the local Oracle Brasil team who recruited participants, set up location by coordinating closely with the Applications UX team in Oracle HQ, and even contributed local UX insights over the two days to bring the UX message home to participants and visitors alike! Everyone learned something new, valuable, practical and most important of all, how to solve real business problems using enterprise methodology to deliver results that mean productive and satisfied users of enterprise apps and more ROI for licensers of Oracle applications.

Wireframing a service request task flow. With Oracle JDeveloper on standby, Brazil's Oracle partners get the idea!

Wireframing a service request task flow. With Oracle JDeveloper on standby, Brazil's Oracle partners get the idea!

All the makings of a great developer relations outreach program were there: delivery of technical insight, common sense approach to a new domain (UX), fun, challenge, revelations into new techniques and different ways of doing things, respect for each other's abilities, open and candid exchange of ideas, the triumph of giving over taking, and most of all a display of enthusiasm across all levels of ability and experience.

So, watch out for more UX enablement workshops coming to your region soon. And don’t forget there's other forms of UX outreach to suit your needs too: blogs, webinars, websites, online seminars, advocacy programs, and more; the Applications User Experience is all about sharing research, design, and implementation insights enabling Oracle ADF and Java enterprise developers, customers and partners to build great looking usable apps productively, worldwide.

Wednesday Jul 24, 2013

Resources for Building Oracle ADF Applications

Interested in building a compelling, consistent, and flexible user experience with a user interface to support simple, intuitive interactions but not sure where to start? 

This entry lists the best resources to use to get started building great applications using the Oracle Applications Development Framework (ADF) technology. However, if you’re already an ADF developer, you can fast-track your learning curve by checking out our top 10 reads: Top 10 Things to Read If You’re a Fusion Applications Developer.

List of Oracle Fusion Applications resources

List of Oracle Fusion Applications resources 

The following table highlights the four key resources that we use when building ADF components and pages for Oracle Fusion Applications and offers examples for when to apply the information in each of these resources.

I’m building an ADF table, and I need to . . . Resource Use when . . .
Identify components and guidelines that I will need Oracle ADF Component Specifications You want to see examples and demonstrations of components, validators, converters, and miscellaneous tags, along with a property editor to see how attribute values affect a component.
Determine information design and  elements Oracle ADF Rich Client User Interface Guidelines

Your focus is data visualization, rich web user experience, visual development.

For example, if you were building a table, you would find guidelines for table design and table elements. Specific design and element guidelines include:

  • Layout
  • Row banding
  • Column formatting
  • Row height
  • Vertical and horizontal scrolling
  • Read-only or editable data

Add specific core and task-dependent features and interactions Oracle Fusion Applications Usage Guidelines

You’re looking for Oracle Fusion Applications-specific features and interactions that enable a cohesive user experience through the consistent placement and behavior of user interface elements.

Examples include:

  • Common and special icon types
  • Tasks pane
  • UI Shell

Apply  common and proven design and interaction patterns that align with industry best practices Oracle Fusion Applications Design Patterns  You want to apply common design patterns. Design patterns comprise common page designs that are built to accommodate common requirements that have been identified by the industry as best practices and have been proven by real users in our usability labs. Generally, our design patterns are delivered through JDeveloper as composite components, or they offer instructions on how to use ADF components.

Interested in learning more? 

See:

Wednesday Jul 17, 2013

Wireframing | Blueprinting Usable Applications Concepts

By Karen Scipi and Ultan O’Broin, Oracle Applications User Experience

How do users' stories inspire user experience innovation and end up as well-loved, simple productivity features in your favorite mobile or desktop application? The process starts simply . . . with a drawing or sketch.

Building an application that is modern and compelling means framing the task scenario for the worker in context of the application features and then communicating the agreed result. Using a low-fidelity drawing to wireframe the proposed solution is a productive and efficient way explore, validate, and garner agreement on a design before it moves on to the prototyping stage of the build process.

Practice for building an Oracle applications user experience

Wireframing is integral to the user experience process of building great Oracle applications

Wireframing as part of the user experience process

A wireframe represents a story of how applications pages are used by real workers to do real work. Wireframing is a low-fidelity drawing on paper or electronic format that starts to close the gap between the intent of the concept and the action of the worker, which eventually comes to life as an application living in the cloud or in your computer room.

Wireframe example of a trouble ticket in CRM


Wireframe of a trouble ticket in CRM that shows how design patterns and guidelines are applied to  build consistency and productivity into a flow (click for full version in PDF)

Wireframing offers big wins for applications builders. We’ve learned that wireframing shortens the innovation cycle, exposes problems early, increases productivity of application builders, and eliminates costly surprises late in the build cycle. Customers and partners have learned this, too, when designing and tailoring applications. We use wireframes to apply usability heuristics, and we apply our user experience design patterns to the wireframe before a single line of code is written. Using wireframes, we can iterate quickly and evaluate alternatives in a cost- and time-efficient way. Partners and customers have learned this, too, and more, when designing and tailoring applications.

Which best practices do we apply when wireframing? 

Wireframing practices vary. We follow a few best practices consistently, including: 
  • Focus on the intent of a wireframe. 
Understand the difference between a wireframe, prototype, and testable application code. Garner buy-in from the right stakeholders, not just end users, but also other interested parties, such as other workers or developers or support people, managers, and decision-makers so that you can void the "but all I wanted was" syndrome after the development is complete. And do remember this is a process. Some things cannot be wireframed
  • Manage your wireframing practice. 
Plan and control wireframing by assigning an owner, applying file naming and priority conventions, managing version control, adding arrows and annotations, and so on. 

Think about this: The great sketching master Leonardo da Vinci organized his sketches in a codex or library—principles that are well founded to this day.
  • Use suitable tools. 
Paper and pencil can be used as basic wireframing tools, but they are not scalable and persistent. Software tools, such as Balsamiq Mockups (widely used in Oracle), Microsoft Visio (a favorite of Oracle Fusion Applications internally, also used by the Oracle Application Development Framework team), Microsoft PowerPoint, and mobile options, for smart phones or tablets are better alternatives for building enterprise applications. Considerations for wireframing tools that we've found most useful include ease of use, speed of iteration, portability, ease of collaboration, cost of the software, and ability to avoid lock-in between partners.
  • Establish a few process best practices. 
Wireframing is about iterating until agreement is reached. Provide alternative drawings for evaluation by stakeholders. Create widgets, templates, and stencils for wireframing in your tool of choice and then reuse them. Matching wireframe flows to the reusable solutions provided by user experience design patterns also cuts design and development time and improves developer productivity.
  • Learn from others. 
Stay tuned to Misha Vaughn's Voice of User Experience (VoX) blog and your customer and partner channels so that you can learn about workshops that focus on building great-looking usable applications, A Day in the Life of UX wireframing activities, and other upcoming outreach opportunities that explore wireframing as part of the overall user experience process.

Interested in learning more? 

See:

Monday Jul 01, 2013

Applications User Experience Fundamentals

Understanding what user experience means in the modern work environment is central to building great-looking usable applications on the desktop or mobile devices. What better place to start a series of blog posts on Oracle Applications User Experience enablement of customers and partners than by sharing what the term really means, writes UX team member Karen Scipi.

Applications UX have gained valuable insights into developing a user experience that reflects the experience of today’s worker. We have observed real workers performing real tasks in real work environments, and we have developed a set of new standards of application design that have been scientifically proven to be beneficial to enable today’s workers. We share this expertise to enable our customers and partners to benefit from our insights and to further their return on investment when building Oracle applications.

So, What is User Experience?


The user interface (UI) is about the appearance afforded to users by the layout of widgets (such as icons, fields, buttons, and more) and by visual aspects such as colors, typographic choices, and so on. The UI presents the “look and feel” of the application that conveys a particular message and information to users to make decisions. It reflects, in essence, the most immediate aspects of usability we can now all relate to. 

User experience, on the other hand, is about understanding the whole context of the world of work, about how workers go about completing tasks, crossing all sorts of boundaries along the way. It is a study of how business processes and workers goals coincide, how users work with technology or other tools to get their jobs done, their interactions with other users, and their responses to the technical, physical, and cultural environment around them.

Applications user experience is about completing tasks in context, crossing traditional boundaries

User experience is all about how users work—their work environments, office layouts, desk tools, types of devices, their working day, and more. Even their job aids, such as sticky notes, offer insight for UX innovation.

User experience matters because businesses need to be efficient, work must be productive, and users now demand to be satisfied by the applications they work with. In simple terms, tasks finished quickly and accurately means  organizational effectiveness, efficiency and worker satisfaction. Workers are more than willing to use the application again, the next day.

Design Principles for the Enterprise Worker

The consumerization of information technology has raised the bar for enterprise applications. Applications must be consistent, simple, intuitive, but above all contextual, reflecting how and when workers work, in the office or on the go. For example, the Google search experience with its type-ahead keyword-prompting feature is how workers expect to be able to discover enterprise information, too.
Type-ahead in PeopleSoft 9.1. Consumer expectation realized in Enterprise Apps
Type-ahead in PeopleSoft 9.1

To build software that enables workers to be productive, our design principles meet modern work requirements about consistency, with well-organized, context-driven information, geared for a working world of discovery and collaboration. Our applications behave in a simple, web and app-like personalized way just like the Amazon, Google, and Apple versions that workers use at home or on the go. We must also reflect workers’ needs for application flexibility and well-loved enterprise practices such as using popular desktop tools like Microsoft Excel or Outlook as the job requires.

Building User Experience Productively

The building blocks of Oracle Fusion Applications are the user experience design patterns. Based on Oracle Fusion Middleware technology used to build Oracle Fusion Applications, the patterns are reusable solutions to common usability challenges that Oracle Application Development Framework developers typically face as they build applications, extensions, and integrations. Developers use the patterns as part of their Oracle toolkits to realize great usability consistently in a productive way.

Steve Miranda Quote: Apps must be fast, usable, and code is always on. Developers take note!

Our design pattern creation process is informed by user experience research and science, an understanding of our technology’s capabilities, the demands for simplification and intuitiveness from users, and the best of Oracle’s acquisitions strategy (an injection of smart people and smart innovation). The patterns are supported by usage guidelines and are tested in our labs and assembled into a library of proven resources we used to build own Oracle Fusion Applications and other Oracle applications user experiences. The design patterns library is now available to the Oracle ADF community and to our partners and customers, for free.

Developers with Oracle ADF skills and other technology skills can now offer more than just coding and functionality and still use the best in enterprise methodologies to ensure that a great user experience is easily applied, scaled, and maintained, whether it be for SaaS or on-premise deployments for Oracle Fusion Applications, for applications coexistence, or for partner integration scenarios. 

Floyd Teter on using Design Patterns and ADF Essentials

Oracle partners and customers already using our design patterns to build solutions and win business in smart and productive ways are now sharing their experiences and insights on pattern use to benefit your entire business.

Applications UX is going global with the message and the means. Our hands-on user experience enablement through Oracle ADF  is expanding. So, stay tuned to Misha Vaughan's Voice of User Experience (VOX) blog and follow along on Twitter at @usableapps for news of outreach events and other learning opportunities.

Interested in Learning More?

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).

Tuesday Jan 29, 2013

Sticky Notes, Burritos, and Building the Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience

At the Building Great-looking Usable Apps workshop, Misha Vaughan explained how observing even little things makes for building a great application user experience (UX): sticky notes*, for example. I caught up with the flame-haired Texan Applications UX messaging maven at home to find out about those very successful UX outreach programs to the Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) community and what makes her tick as a UX mensch.

Misha teaches apps developers to build killer UIs

Misha Vaughan teaching apps developers about building a great UI at the UK workshop (photo: Ultan O’Broin) 

Ultan O’Broin: You see sticky notes on a screen. A UX “crime scene” or “opportunity?”

Misha Vaughan: An "Aha!" UX opportunity! Applications users rely on a support infrastructure to do their jobs. The sticky notes tell me there’s something missing from that system. That’s why it’s important to watch users at work. You see everything workers do in context: the extra little inputs they make, switching into email, chatting with colleagues, the real interruptions, what happens when workers are at the close of a transaction, and what “you’re done” means. This aspect really informs the user experience. It can’t be captured in a service request.

Sticky notes are still a powerful reminder, even in the mobile apps age.

Sticky notes: Still holding their own (Photos and Polar opinion poll: Ultan O’Broin)

UO: Developers value what Grant Ronald of ADF calls “Feng Shui of UX” anecdotes. How do sticky notes inform the Fusion UX?

MV: Simple things like sticky notes offer a good example of why UX doesn't stop at the UI. When we observed real users at work, we saw a common phenomenon: sticky notes on computer monitors whose job it was to remember. To remember an account number that had to be passed from one system to another, to remember a procurement item that needed to be tracked, to remember a budget code, and so on. What users wanted was a way to pass this kind of context from one part of their system to another. 

Oracle Fusion Middleware (FMW) enabled the kinds of contextual UX that we wanted users to have in Oracle Fusion Applications. Those accounts, items, budgets, and the context of what users are doing with those objects gets passed by Fusion middleware sensors into Oracle Metadata Services (MDS). Users can now easily search for and tag items, monitor budgets, manage account exceptions, track progress, and see and share information about their transaction easily. 

What’s next for sticky notes and UX? How about light overlays? (Lamps Sketch 06: Interfaces on Things video)

UO: Context seems central to UX. So “context over consistency” as 37 Signals would say?

MV: What may make sense here may not make sense there. Consistency has a place in UX, but it can be the enemy of productivity. Each experience must be contextual: for that user, their device, and their task. Enforcing a common UX means context becomes impossible. Think about how task flows are different for the mobile or desktop user, the difference in the UI when using amazon.com on a smart phone or PC, the responsive web design approach.

UO: How do you get the Apps UX messaging right? For example, squaring a noob ADF developer’s needs with those of a senior solution consultant?

MV: We learned the hard way (laughs). Know your users! We usability test our messages. UX can be too academic, so we stepped back. We communicate in plain language, making no assumptions about what the audience needs to know. Then we deliver our message in non-UX technical language through events and experiences that get to the heart of solving the real problems faced by the audience.

UO: What usability inspires you personally in your work and personal life?

MV: The stuff designed for kids. If they can use it, then it’s simple; it’s straightforward. Look at kids’ games and how they learn to use them. Somebody who cannot read is not going to look up a manual. I love the iPad games for my five- and seven-year-olds. Seniors, too. My mom can reboot an Apple router now just by plugging it in and out. She doesn’t know she’s “rebooting.” So, make it easy, transparent.

UO: You told me that you read Computers as Theatre. How did this influence you?

MV: I read Brenda Laurel’s book for my dissertation. The Internet is full of information. It’s a whole wellspring of genres. It was interesting to me how people didn't think of the Internet as “work” and how this informed their computer expectations. Today we can see that work and personal genres are blurred: games, consumerization, content, information, and entertainment are fused together.

UO: Developers really love Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think approach to common sense usability. But can anyone be a UX champ? How can they start?

MV: IT implementers and developers don’t have the money or time to be UX pros, but they can still do it! I’m inspired by one IT manager we know from the City of Las Vegas, a UX evangelist there. He showed the way: Sit and observe your users. Take a piece of paper and pencil. Ask: “Show me how you start?” Don’t begin with what they do on-screen, start with that pile of papers on their desks or that incoming email. Then ask: “Tell me what do you next?” Explore further with “tell me more about that” and keep saying it until you get to the “you’re done” bit. Ask: “How do you know you’re done?” Tremendous insight.

You have to follow those user conversations thoroughly. Back to your sticky notes. Don’t start with the notes themselves, but find out what happens when users get the first message to act. Do they Google it? Look up the sender in LinkedIn? What’s the path of people, and how do they connect to each other? What’s a full day of work really like? What are the bits? Then design to enable users to work, not click, better.

UO: On to real user experiences. Austin or San Francisco: which has the best food?

MV: Austin! The cheapest, the best chefs. I’ll challenge anyone on that. The best burritos by far!

UO: Diversity in technology is a hot developer topic: Any thoughts on attracting wider audiences into the UX ecosystem? Women? Seniors?

MV: Start early, in school. Teach coding expertise in simple, meaningful ways. Move the Turtle Programming for Kids on the iPad, for example. Teach with Legos. Use games. Definitely, it’s about teaching fundamental programming skills to the community.

UO: OK, then, crystal ball time: Your top three UX trends for 2013?

MV: I see:

One, continued gamification, simplification, and BYOD. Take FUSE (the New Face of Fusion Applications) for example, an immersive, cross-devices concept taking in all those things. Enterprises have to embrace these things and really they need it for retention of staff, productive employees, and other business benefits.

Two, new emerging device paradigms gaining traction. Look at the adoption of contextual natural language voice avatars in the enterprise, Google Glass, the work as entertainment trend, too.

Three, cheaper RFID, GPS technology, and so on, enabled through device features and hot-pluggable middleware, that passes context across apps will start to solve real enterprise problems. Just watch this space!

UO: Finally, what’s your “call to action” for ADF and FMW developers to get on board the Misha UX train?

MV: Stay connected! Here’s how:

And keep coming back here. There’s some real cool stuff comin’ your way! 

* Sticky Note is a registered trademark of Société Bic.  

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