Friday Feb 20, 2015

Oracle Design Jam takes a look at the Future of Information

By Sarahi Mireles and Kathy Miedema, Oracle Applications User Experience Communications and Outreach

From Kathy...

In keeping with a new emphasis and investment from Oracle on exploring emerging technology for ways to encourage the evolution of the Oracle user experience, the UX Innovation Events (@InnovateOracle) team held a design jam for Oracle employees in early February.

Since embracing their charter in Fall 2014, the team -- a branch of the Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) team -- has organized and held a rapid succession of design jams. The design jam focused on the future of information design.

Verbal Karate Chop: The Team. (L-R) Tony Orciuoli, Sarahi Mireles, Sasha Boyko, Rob Hernandez (Kathy Miedema not pictured)

Verbal Karate Chop, the team: (L-R) Tony Orciuoli, Sarahi Mireles, Sasha Boyko, Rob Hernandez, and Kathy Miedema (not pictured) 

It’s worth pointing out how exciting it is to be part of an organization that encourages a free flow of thinking and creativity by supporting events like these. Our team met a few times before the event to kick-start our brainstorming, and then took off an entire day to participate in this event.

We were well-supported during the event too – we had room to collaborate, materials to help us develop ideas, mentors to help guide us, food to keep us fueled.

Our team, Verbal Karate Chop, designed a product that builds on the technology behind Oracle Voice, pulling in information around a particular keyword or phrase to create meetings, help prepare for meetings, and even start a meeting hands-free if you happen to be driving in your car, for example.

Sarahi can better describe what it’s like to participate as a developer and build an idea like this on a tight deadline. Before turning it over to her, I’m happy to announce that our idea won both the People’s Choice award and the Best Use of Audio/Video award. This was my first time participating in such an event – what a thrill it was!

Innovate and diversify. Getting the message out: Kathy Miedema and Sarahi Mireles

Innovate and diversify. Getting the message out: Kathy Miedema and Sarahi Mireles

... and from Sarahi

As a developer, I find it really fun going to a design jam. The best part after the brain-storming is starting to build your prototype. This can be something really simple or something quite complex, and that actually depends on the time you have and how fast are you able to play with whatever tool you are using.

Time was actually the key factor for this design jam. Having only a couple of hours to build your entire idea is what really makes your adrenaline surge.

We started putting together all our ideas, and then we began to draw the general design of the whole idea (I’m glad we had two designers on our team!), and after that, we built it.

From a non-designer point of view, I have to say that we designed some cool UIs after a couple of hours of pushing our brains to the maximum. And it was awesome to build out those ideas.

If you have the opportunity to join a design jam, do it! It’s also the best way to learn from other developers and non-developers, and to explore all kinds of crazy ideas for innovation in the enterprise.

Verbal Karate Chop. The User Experience: People’s Choice and the Best Use of Audio/Video awards

Verbal Karate Chop, the user experience: People’s Choice and Best Use of Audio/Video awards

Explore more 

Find out more about this Oracle Applications User Experience design jam and about other events on the UX Innovation Events blog, and follow event happenings on Twitter.

The overall results of the design jam are here.

To discover more about the emerging technology and trends that drive the Oracle Applications User Experience strategy, get the free eBook from Vice President, Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley). 

Thursday Apr 17, 2014

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.

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