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!

Wednesday Jan 08, 2014

Designing the Language Experience of the User Interface

When you think about any user interface (UI) guideline and you hear “language of the user,” what do you think?

  • I should be able to understand the words I see on the UI.
  • The words I see on the UI should be meaningful to the work that I do.
  • The words I see on the UI should be translatable and localizable.

The usability of business applications has evolved, and business applications have become more consumer-focused. The average user’s understanding of business applications has evolved as well. Technology and know-how now allow us to build contextual user experiences into applications and to design language experiences for the UI—with style, tone, terms, words, and phrases—that resonate with real users and their real, every day work experiences in the real world, across the globe.

For example, on the Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud My Details page, notice how the sections are organized, how they use real-world terms in headings and field labels, and how they use real content, such as personal and biographical details instead of placeholder text, which cannot be evaluated for its meaning or translation or localization needs.

Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud My Details page

Choosing which terms, words, and phrases to include on the UI is as important as choosing the right terms to use in code. In code and on the UI, the terms and words should be accurate in context and enable the successful completion of a task in context, whether the context is the processing of an event in the code or the user adding information to a contact record on a form in the UI.

37signals book, Getting Real, dedicates a short essay, Copywriting is Interface Design, to the importance of copywriting in UI design and how important every single word choice on is for the UI.

There are also numerous resources that support that choosing terms, words, and phrases for the UI that accurately represent real-world concepts in their source language often enables the translation and localization experiences. For examples, see Ultan Ó Broin’s Blogos entry Working Out Context in the Enterprise: Localize That! and Verónica González de la Rosa and Antoine Lefeuvre’s slideshare ‘Translation is UX’ Manifesto.

So how do we design a rich, context-aware UI language experience for today’s user?

  • We use accurate terms to represent concepts that are well-established in the real world by real users. These are the terms that users use frequently, terms such as team or shopping cart.
  • We use terms consistently to represent the same concepts across applications. We wouldn’t use location in one place and party site in another to represent the same concept, or save and submit to represent the same concept.
  • When we need to use these terms in context of phrases on the UI, we do so with a style and tone that resonates with users and yet is still translatable and localizable. This means that we don’t introduce nonsensical words or instant messaging-speak. We offer phrasing that is simple and clear: Add a new customer record.
  • We stop surfacing the language of the application on the UI, for example, code-specific terms. When we use a term like worker in the code as an abstraction or a superclass to represent the concept that a person can assume the role of “employee” or “contractor” in the system, this use makes sense in context of where and how it is used in code. When we surface the term worker on the UI to represent either or both roles, we introduce a context-independent use of this concept and one that when tested, we learn is not necessarily translatable or localizable in such a context.

Jakob Nielsen in his 1995 article 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design identified a need for this practice of using language choices that resonate with real users: “The system should speak the users' language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.”

A simplified UI is simple to build, simple to extend, and simple to use. Use and context awareness require us to build applications that focus equally on code, visual design, and language (UI) design. Every page that we surface to the user should make sense to the user in context of his work and the real world. The practice of designing the language that is used on the UI offers us an extraordinary opportunity to evolve how we communicate with users to enable their work everywhere.

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!

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:

Wednesday Jul 10, 2013

Visual Design for Any Enterprise User Interface (Art School in a Box)

By Karen Scipi and Katy Massucco, Oracle Applications User Experience

"What color is Facebook?" Without thinking, you know it's blue. This isn’t by accident. So, what is the science behind visual design in enterprise user interfaces? 

Visual design is an essential part of the user experience. A well-designed user interface starts to become invisible to the user. It's naturally pleasing, and it doesn't create tension or roadblocks. It starts to feel like a comfortable shirt; you don't notice it. A poorly designed user interface feels like an ill-fitting shirt with a scratchy tag on the neck; you're going to notice it, and it's going to annoy you.

We've all seen visual designs that have made us cringe. And we've all seen visual designs that have made us feel good. Have you ever thought about what the differences are between these types of experiences, or why one resonates with you more than the other?

Any number of key elements affect visual design and users' responses to the design. We offer one that we consider key to users wanting to use an application or website that goes beyond usability and appeals to their emotional side: branding. Of course, you should also consider other aspects when designing a user interface for an enterprise application. All of these elements add up to helping "delight and excite" users, which results in productivity—for them and their businesses. 

Why branding? Because branding is the "hook." A well-considered brand gets noticed, so does consistency across a user interface. Branding is more than a logo. Branding represents the overall "personality" or impression of the design, and it is supported by these next few key design elements.

Color 

Color impacts the brain. A user draws conclusions from the ways that color is applied.  Color can work to your advantage if you understand how color works and is perceived by users. However, applying colors that violate this understanding can work to your disadvantage. For example, a color may have different meanings in different parts of the world. A good practice for controlling colors is applying a product coding strategy.

Examples of color usages

Examples of color usages

Contrast

Contrast is the difference between two adjacent colors. In our user interface designs, we consider these points:
  • Good contrast is central to the legibility of text. 
  • The highest contrast is black text on a white background, such as those used in books, newspapers, and dense online text.
  • Poor contrast can cause eye strain for users, even for those users with good vision.
  • Poor contrast can render a page illegible, especially for users with compromised vision.
  • Accessibility standards require a minimum level of contrast.

Examples of text on color contrasts

Examples of text on color contrasts

Layout

Layout focuses on how components and content are arranged on a page. A layout should optimize the natural way that content is read and scanned by a user. A page layout should consider and complement the reading order of a language (left-to-right or right-to-left). The content should be grouped and arranged logically and should establish relationships among objects that appear on that page.

Eye tracking enables user experience designers to determine where users' visual attention is focused. The data that we collect from our eye-tracking usability studies helps inform layout and other design aspects that we've proven might better accommodate users' natural reading tendencies.  

You might wonder why even small changes in layout and where you position components and content on a page are important. Changes can be interpreted as swimming upstream: you are fighting the natural order of things when you don't conform to established and proven practices, such as reading order. Even tiny spurts of lost user productivity can turn into death-by-a-thousand-cuts for an enterprise, as proven by Oracle Applications User Experience and industry science

Examples of left-to-right and right-to-left language reading order

Examples of left-to-right and right-to-left language reading order

Spacing

Spacing, such as white space and padding, is a powerful design element. When used deliberately, blank areas on a page can be used to break up the density of content on the page and to give the eye a place to rest or focus.

Examples that show how padding creates resting places for the eyes

Examples that show how padding creates resting places for the eyes

Font

Font choice reflects the personality of the site, for example, the brand. Conservative fonts, such as sans serif ones, are generally more easily read. Eclectic fonts, such as serif fonts or script, offer a trendier impression.

Font color and text styles also enhance (or not) the readability of the text, so they should be used deliberately. Consider that:
  • A color change within a block of text draws the eye to it and makes the user think that the text is different in some way, for example, a link, which is set in a different color from the text that surrounds it.
  • Bold text draws the eye to it and should be used to emphasize a word or a block of text. 
  • Italic text can be difficult to read online. It becomes either blurry or jagged, depending on the quality of the font and users' screens.

Examples of sans serif and serif fonts

Examples of sans serif and serif fonts

Icons

Icons are small images that powerfully impact comprehension. The eye is drawn immediately to an icon on a page rather than to a text button that contains the same information. When used, icons should differ enough in shape and color so that the user can identify the differences by simply scanning the page. 

The frequency of use should consider that the average user can process and understand a limited number of icons, their meanings, and their relationships among other icons—for example, status icons—at any one time. Our research yields that the average user can hold five icons in their thoughts at any one time. When the number of icons increases above five, our research yields that users' comprehension becomes compromised because there are simply too many meanings and relationships to consider and understand. 

Icons draw the eye to them, so they should be used judiciously. Too many icons on a page can add a lot of visual noise. When overused, users' eyes will bounce around the page from icon to icon. 

Devices

As we've moved into a more device-agnostic era, we've had to think about how to build enterprise applications for use across different devices. To control the overall visual design across devices and to ensure consistency and promote reuse across pages, we've centralized our style classes in a cascading style sheet (CSS). We also:
  • Use fallback fonts to control the appearance of the user interface if the device uses different system fonts. 
  • Test our CSS in different browsers and on different operating systems.
  • Avoid relying on images to colorize elements or add curves or gradients because they require manual image editing to revise.

The visual design aspect of any enterprise application can be quite complex. While we didn't cover every aspect of visual design in this blog entry, we hope you walk away with an understanding of what we consider the key element of visual design to be as well as its supporting visual elements for our enterprise applications. 

Interested in learning more? 

See:


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