Wednesday Jan 07, 2015

How Effective is Blogging for Software Developer Outreach?

By Joe Dumas, Oracle Applications User Experience

When you blog, are you reaching the right audience? Is blogging an effective way to spread your message? These are some of the questions that the Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) Communications and Outreach team asked me to help answer.

The team made the Simplified User Experience Design Patterns for the Oracle Applications Cloud Service eBook available for free on the web. They announced its availability on the Usable Apps blog.

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

Simplified User Experience Design Patterns for the Oracle Applications Cloud Service eBook in use.

The eBook contains user experience design guidance and examples for building the Oracle Applications Cloud simplified UI. The target audience was developers building applications with Oracle ADF in the Oracle Java Cloud Service. To download the eBook (in a tablet-friendly format of choice), developers registered their name and email address on the eBook landing page.

To gather the information for analysis, I created a short online survey of questions and, using that database of thousands of email addresses, invited those registered users to complete the survey, without either obligation or incentive.

Of course, developers might have heard about the eBook in other ways, such as attending an OAUX workshop or visiting the Usable Apps website.

However, when I tabulated the survey results, more than half of the respondents had found out about the eBook from the blog.

Furthermore, I found that of those who used the book extensively, some 70% said they had first heard about it from the blog.

I also found that the survey respondents were mostly the very people for whom the book was intended. 70% of respondents made user interface design decisions for applications development teams, and all either worked for Oracle Partners or were applications development consultants for Oracle products.

I’ll explore in a further blog article about what parts of the eBook developers found most useful and other insights. But, as a taster, I can let you know now about receiving positive comments again and again about developers being “thrilled” with the content.

In these days of pervasive social media and other communications channels and a debate about the effectiveness of different online platforms, these findings show that blogs are indeed an effective way to reach out to a target audience, especially one committed to finding ways to work faster and smarter.

Do you communicate with developers or other information technology professionals using a blog? How often do you blog, and why? Share your experience in the comments.

For more eBook goodness from OAUX, download the Oracle Applications Cloud UX Strategy and Trends eBook too. More details are on the Voice of User Experience (VoX) blog.

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?

Thursday Apr 17, 2014

Twilio: Democratizing Communications to Build a Better User Experience in the Oracle Cloud

Oracle has a powerful partner ecosystem in the Oracle Cloud, adding value to our applications in many areas. Enabling partners to integrate with our cloud applications is key to Oracle’s “Extending SaaS through PaaS” approach. Sharing our expertise with partners, which helps them to productively build a great user experience (UX), is a major drive of Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) outreach.

One of the latest additions to the Oracle PartnerNetwork  is the very cool and happening Twilio. Followers of the AppsLab know the OAUX team loves exploring the UX possibilities of Twilio-based voice and SMS integrations. I took a trip to Twilio's San Francisco HQ to ask David Wacker (@dlwacker) of Twilio Channel Sales and Partnerships to find out more about the whys and hows of integrating in the cloud and simplifying user experience...

Being in the cloud offers the potential to make a major difference with a superior UX. The days of cumbersome, on-premise installations and horrible UX are gone. Now scalable, cloud-based applications, customizable and reflecting each customer’s business, are changing the UX across datacenter management, CRM, marketing automation, and ERP, all driven through how we power communications.

Twilio is a cloud-based communications platform that offers a powerful, open API for building communications applications, what Twilio refers to as "democratizing access" to communication in a traditionally complex and expensive world of telephony.

Using Twilio, developers can easily access the means to create robust communications integrations, fundamentally changing the UX landscape for applications users in the cloud. Twilio’s open API framework means developers can utilize prebuilt solutions in the Oracle Marketing Cloud, Oracle Service Cloud, and Oracle Sales Cloud. Developers can build such UX integrations productively, without the cost and effort normally associated with such projects.

David pointed out a few ways how Twilio enhanced the user experience for Oracle application users, such as the Oracle Marketing Cloud, Oracle Service Cloud, and Oracle Sales Cloud.

Twilio’s seamless integration to the Oracle Marketing Cloud (Eloqua) means that users can just drag and drop the Twilio Cloud Connector onto a marketing campaign canvas to provide for outbound SMS, MMS (multimedia messaging), and voice calls. This delivers a great multichannel user experience, such as for mobile marketing campaigns with pictures or QR coupon codes.

Twilio Cloud Connector

Dragging the Twilio Cloud Connector onto a campaign canvas easily adds Twilio SMS, MMS, and voice to marketing campaigns.

Twilio's embedding of SMS and voice capabilities right into the Oracle Service Cloud (RightNow) means a superior customer experience built in a scalable, flexible way. A service agent can use click-to-call to phone an end customer, automatically creating the event on their system and then recording the call, for example. An SMS capability can also enable customers to chat with service agents using SMS on their phones instead of web chat, if preferred, and more.

Twilio Click-to-Call

Click-to-call for customer engagement, which allows customers to call inbound more effectively.

Twilio's integration into the Oracle Sales Cloud, drives efficiency by simplifying the UX. Twilio uses the Oracle Sales Cloud native CTI toolbar to track and record phone calls, allowing for seamless conference calls, and all integrated to drive sales productivity. For example, a sales rep can use Twilio’s click-to-call to contact opportunities, automated dialing, or conference line bridges powered by Twilio, creating events and logging activities easily within the Oracle Sales Cloud.

Twilio integrated with Oracle Sales Cloud

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) toolbar for easy access to inbound and outbound dialing in Oracle Sales Cloud powered by Twilio.

David tells me that “Twilio’s integration possibilities are endless. That's the best part about working with developers in the Twilio and Oracle communities; finding new ways to solve user problems, unconstrained by technology or traditional project limitations. I’m excited to explore new and unique ways that the Oracle developer community and Twilio can change the UX landscape in the Oracle Cloud.”

Those are some great UX insights from David, and there are more to come. The OAUX team will be working with Twilio over the coming months, so stay tuned to your usual outreach and communications channels for news and events.

Twilio is also exhibiting at, and sponsoring, Oracle CloudWorld in Chicago on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Stop by the Twilio booth to learn more (or to just say, Hi!), and give the Usable Apps blog a shout-out.

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