Saturday Feb 07, 2015

Oracle PaaS and UX: Keepin' it <af:simple/> with Oracle Alta UI and eProseed

Empathy, ideation, and enterprise: three principles we keep at the heart of our partner PaaS and SaaS enablement. All three aligned at the Oracle Applications Cloud User Experience PaaS event with eProseed in the Netherlands.

How?

By finding the pulse of real people and the requirement to work flexibly, by exchanging ideas about new ways of working using the cloud, digital technology and autonomous organization, and by agreeing on a design solution that resonated with all; one that could be built in a secure and scalable way using Oracle technology, and making business sense.

The result was the delivery of a powerful experience that Erik Veldhoen (@erikveldhoen), architect of activity-based working, saw as a milestone progression towards innovative business models and how people get things done.

Erik Veldhoen goes into the cloud with glance, scan, commit; seamlessly allied with his vision of using technology as a powerful instrument for people to organize their lives and work in a better, virtual space.

Erik Veldhoen goes into the cloud with the design philosophy of glance, scan, commit; seamlessly melding with his vision of using technology as a powerful instrument for people to organize their lives and work in a better, virtual space.

The cloud has changed everything, and user experience is no exception. Make no mistake; it's “Game Over” for traditional ways of selling software and for people accepting less than compelling user experiences in work. User experience is a competitive must-have, and a capability to deliver a rockin’ UX using PaaS is the partner differentiator.

Julian Orr of OAUX and eProseed UX consultant Mascha Van Oosterhout work together on applying design patterns to wireframes.

Julian Orr of Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) and eProseed UX consultant Mascha van Oosterhout work together on applying design patterns to wireframes for maximum productivity and reusability.

OAUX's goal was to enable eProseed to deliver on a business proposition using UX and PaaS. Exact use case details and images of screens cannot be disclosed. But, if you were at this innovative event, held in Oracle Nederland in Utrecht, you’d have witnessed:

  • The awesome eProseed UX design and wireframing enablement; a best practice to communicate design amongst stakeholders, get their agreement, and eliminate surprises later when coding starts.
  • The bringing together of key stakeholders around the use case: partner UX and development teams, customer, customer advocacy, Oracle Nederland technology sales, and the OAUX team.  
  • The rapid building of a simplified user experience that realizes activity-based working, based on glance, scan, commit design philosophy. This enables people to organize, act, and report on their work autonomously and easily.

The vision of Erik Veldhoen’s new way of working virtually using technology and the cloud melding magically with the OAUX design philosophy and strategies of simplicity, mobility, and extensibility.  

eProseed Managing Partner, Luc Bors (@lucb_) with UX Developer Lancy Silveira (@LancyS) showing off Luc’s Oracle Mobile Application Framework Developer Guide (Oracle Press), available now.

eProseed Managing Partner, Luc Bors (@lucb_) with UX Developer Lancy Silveira (@LancyS), showing off Luc’s Oracle Mobile Application Framework Developer Guide (Oracle Press), available now.

  • The application of user experience design patterns to the wireframes created by eProseed. The patterns leverage Oracle ADF components and eProseed now has reusable, common solutions at hand, ready for the next business opportunity. 
  • The deployment of the solution using PaaS. The designing, building and deploying of non-English language UIs is another workshop first. 
eProseed Managing Partner Lonneke Dikmans (@lonnekedikmans) and eProseed SOA developer Thanasis Tegos work through the necessary backend development.
eProseed Managing Partner Lonneke Dikmans (@lonnekedikmans) and eProseed SOA developer Thanasis Tegos work through the SOA backend development together.
  • A display of agile-style development, design iterations, and flexible working over three days. We adopted our own “new way of working", one of minimal management and supervision. Everyone at the event worked together, as one team, self-organizing and staying focused on the end result
That's quite a breadth of activity and achievement. And, if you were there, you’d also have heard words like “vision realized”, “simplicity”, and “audit trail” used together in the room; all music to an enterprise UXer's ears, and an example of how our three outreach principles came to life. 

eProseed Managing Partner, Lonneke Dikmans, tweeted as the event concluded:

VERY cool workshop implementing activity based working #awb using Oracle #ACM Alta UI - ADF and the Oracle #UX design patterns

UX and PaaS is the new cool!

The workshop is part of an ongoing story as  eProseed iterates the design and development and takes things to the next stage in the business cycle.

Stay tuned for more insights from this event but also for coverage of the other recent partner PaaS4SaaS enablement events in the UK and in the U.S.

Are you a Gold or Platinum level partner in the Oracle Applications Cloud business, seeking that UX and PaaS differentiator? Do ideas of empathy, ideation, and enterprise resonate with your organization?

Get in touch.

Wednesday Jan 07, 2015

Fit for Work: A Team Experience of Wearable Technology

By Sandra Lee (@sandralee0415)

What happens when co-workers try out wearable technology? Misha Vaughan (@mishavaughan), Director of Oracle Applications Communications and Outreach, explored just that.

“Instead of a general perspective, I wanted the team to have a personal experience of wearable technology”, said Misha. So, she gave each member of her team a Fitbit Flex activity tracker to use. The exercise proved insightful, with team members providing useful personal and enterprise-related feedback on device usage.

Fitbit Flex Awaits

Your Fitbit Flex awaits [Photo: Sandra Lee]

Team Dynamic and Initial Reactions

It was a free choice for team members to wear the Fitbit device or not. Those that did were inspired and enjoyed comparing activities and goals. Shannon Whiteman, Communication Operations and Online Training Manager, loved the competitive aspect. “If I saw someone had 100 more steps than I did, I’d take the stairs and walk an extra 101 steps to beat them.” Kathy Miedema, Senior Market Research Analyst, noted that the Fitbit “really motivated and validated my personal fitness activity”.

Fitbit Dashboard for Ultan O'Broin

Example of recorded activity: Ultan O’Broin’s (@usableapps) Fitbit dashboard

The exercise also provided observations on team dynamics in the workplace. Some chose not to wear the device whether for personal reasons, set-up issues, or lack of time; a reminder that although fun to try, such devices are not for everyone, and that’s OK.

The Fashion Perspective

Sarahi Mireles, User Experience Developer in Mexico, tried the Fitbit, but it didn’t fit her lifestyle, saying that “the interest is there [for wearables in general], but the design attraction is lacking.” Sarahi feels the ideal fitness tracker for her world is one with interchangeable looks, so she can wear it to work and to dinner. This typical user need is where fashion designers like Tory Burch offer value to technology developers, in this case partnering with Fitbit to make devices look more like beautiful bracelets and necklaces.

Tory Burch bracelet for Fitbit

Tory Burch for Fitbit metal-hinged bracelet

The Enterprise Employee Investment

Fitness plays a role in work/life balance, and health, happiness, and productivity are intrinsically linked. Overall, wellness contributes to the bottom line in a big way. Oracle is focused on such solutions too, researching user experiences that best engage, promote and support employee wellness.

Oracle HCM Cloud Wellness Page Prototype

Oracle HCM Cloud: Employee Wellness page prototype

Externally, at HCM World for example, Oracle's interest in this space offered analysts and customers complimentary Fitbit Zip devices for a voluntary wellness competition; the winner receiving a donation to the American Cancer Society.

Karen Scipi (@karenscipi), Senior Usability Engineer, reflected that companies like Oracle, in facilitating the use of the fitness device, are placing importance on employee health and fitness as an “employee investment.” Healthier individuals are happier and therefore more productive employees.

Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley), Vice President of Applications User Experience, already leads his team in embracing wellness within the workplace, participating in the American Heart Association Bay Walk, for example. He explained how encouraging and measuring activity during the working day, whether through walking meetings or using activity trackers, is a meaningful way to identify with the Oracle Applications Cloud User Experience strategy too.  

Jeremy described how sensors in activity trackersalong with smart watches, heads-up displays, smart phones, and beaconsare part of the Internet of Things: that ubiquitous connectivity of technology and the Cloud that realize daily experiences for today's enterprise users to empathize with.

Your Data and the Enterprise Bottom Line

From the business perspective, employee activity data gathered from corporate wellness programs could lead to negotiated discounts and rewards for users from health care companies, for example; one possible incentive to enterprise adoption. Gamification, the encouraging of team members to engage and interact in collaborative and productive ways in work using challenges and competitions, is another strategy for workplace wellness programs uptake.

Ultan O’Broin, Director of User Experience, who travels globally out of Ireland, noted that although he personally hasn’t experienced any negative reactions to wearable technology, the issue of privacy of the data gathered, especially in Europe, is a huge concern.  

Data accuracy, permitting employees to voluntarily opt in or out of fitness and wellness programs, privacy issues, and what to do with that data once its collected, all need to reassure users and customers alike. Having HR involved in tracking, storing and using employee activity data is an enterprise dimension being explored.

User Experience Trends

Smart watch usage is on the rise, combining ability to unobtrusively track activity with other glanceable UI capabilities. Analysts now predict a shift in usage patterns as smart watches begin to replace fitness bands, but time will tell in this fast-moving space.

Regardless of your wearable device of choice, and the fashion, personal privacy, employee data, and corporate deployment considerations we’ve explored, wearable technology and wellness programs are enterprise happenings that are here to stay. It’s time to get on board and think about how your business can benefit.

Perhaps your team could follow Misha’s great initiative and explore wearable technology user experience for yourselves? Let us know in the comments!

You can read more about Oracle Applications User Experience team’s innovation and exploration of wearable technology on the Usable Apps Storify social story.

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.

Saturday Aug 30, 2014

Simplified UI Rapid Development Kit Sends Oracle Partners Soaring in the Oracle Applications Cloud

A glimpse into the action at the Oracle HCM Cloud Building Simplified UIs workshop with Hitachi Consulting by Georgia Price (@writeprecise

Building stylish, modern, and simplified UIs just got a whole lot easier. That’s thanks to a new kit developed by the Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team that’s now available for all from the Usable Apps website.

The Oracle Applications Cloud Simplified User Interface Rapid Development Kit is a collection of code samples from the Oracle Platform Technology Solutions (PTS) Code Accelerator Kit, coded page templates and Oracle ADF components, wireframe stencils and examples, coding best practices, and user experience design patterns and guidance. It’s designed to help Oracle partners and developers quickly build—in a matter of hours—simplified UIs for their Oracle Applications Cloud use cases using Oracle ADF page types and components.

Simplified UI eBook

A key component of the simplified UI Rapid Development Kit—the Simplified User Experience Design Patterns for the Oracle Applications Cloud Service eBook—in use. Pic: Sasha Boyko

The kit was put to the test last week by a group of Hitachi Consulting Services team members at an inaugural workshop on building simplified UIs for the Oracle HCM Cloud that was hosted by the OAUX team in the Oracle headquarters usability labs.

The results: impressive.

During the workshop, a broad range of participants—Hitachi Consulting VPs, senior managers, developers, designers, and architects—learned about the simplified UI design basics of glance, scan, commit and how to identify use cases for their business. Then, they collaboratively designed and built—from wireframe to actual code—three lightweight, tablet-first, intuitive solutions that simplify common, every day HCM tasks.

Sona Manzo (@sonajmanzo), Hitachi Consulting VP leading the company’s Oracle HCM Cloud practice, said, “This workshop was a fantastic opportunity for our team to come together and use the new Rapid Development Kit’s tool s and techniques to build actual solutions that meet specific customer use cases. We were able to take what was conceptual to a whole different level.”

Sona Manzo of Hitachi Consulting

Great leadership. Hitachi Consulting's Sona Manzo gets the whole team into the spirit of building simplified UIs. Pic: Martin Taylor

Workshop organizer and host Ultan O’Broin (@ultan), Director, OAUX, was pleased with the outcome as well: “That a key Oracle HCM Cloud solution partner came away with three wireframed or built simplified UIs and now understands what remains to be done to take that work to completion as a polished, deployed solution is a big win for all.”

Anna and Ultan Facilitate at the Workshop

OAUX Principal Interaction Designer Anna Budovsky (left) and Ultan O'Broin (right) facilitate Hitachi Consulting team members in working out solutions for customer use cases. Pics: Martin Taylor

Equally importantly, said Ultan, is what the OAUX team learned about “what such an Oracle partner needs to do or be able to do next to be successful.”

According to Misha Vaughan (@mishavaughan), Director of the OAUX Communications and Outreach team, folks are lining up to attend other building simplified UI workshops.

“The Oracle Applications Cloud partner community is catching wind of the new simplified UI rapid development kit. I'm delighted by the enthusiasm for the kit. If a partner is designing a cloud UI, they should be building with this kit,” said Misha.

Ultan isn’t surprised by the response. “The workshop and kit respond to a world that’s demanding easy ways to build superior, flexible, and yet simple enterprise user experiences using data in the cloud.”

The Oracle Applications Cloud Simplified User Interface Rapid Development Kit will now be featured at Oracle OpenWorld 2014 OAUX events and in OAUX communications and outreach worldwide. 

Monday Jul 07, 2014

Designing a Naturally Conversational User Experience for the User Interface

By Georgia Price and Karen Scipi

Think about the software applications you like most. Why do you like them? How do they make you feel? What is your experience like when you use them? The most successful user interfaces—those that delight users—focus equally on the intersection of visual, interaction, and language design.

Visual and interaction design get a lot of play in the enterprise software development environment. Yet language design directly impacts a user’s ability to complete tasks. The use and arrangement of general words, specialized terms, and phrases on the UI promote a naturally conversational voice and tone and inform and induce user actions.

Simply put, the words, terms, and phrases that we promote on a UI either facilitate or hinder the user experience and either delight or frustrate the user.

As Oracle Applications User Experience language designers, we took this message on the road last month as featured speakers at the Society for Technical Communications Summit, where we presented two papers: Designing Effective User Interface Content and The Unadorned Truth About Terminology Management: Initiatives, Practices, and Melodrama.

Society for Technical Communication Summit logo

If attendance is any indication, our message resonated with many. More than 115 people gathered to hear us talk about how designing language for the UI is just as important when building effective, simplified user experiences as creating the right interactions and choosing the right images, icons, colors, and fonts. Dozens lined up after our talks to ask questions and to learn more, making us realize that many others who build software applications  are also grappling with how to design language to enable more simplified user experiences.

Perhaps we can pique your interest! Over the coming weeks, we'll share our thoughts and experiences on language design. Stay tuned to the Usable Apps blog to learn more about what language design is and how we use words, terms, and phrases, as well as voice and tone, to help build simplified user experiences and easy-to-understand UIs.

Saturday May 31, 2014

General Availability: Simplified User Experience Design Patterns eBook

Karen Scipi (@karenscipi) writes:

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.

Working with publishers McGraw-Hill, we're making our eBook available in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF versions.

Simplified UI eBook

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

The eBook illustrates the same user experience (UX) design patterns and page types and components guidelines that Oracle uses to build simplified user interfaces (UIs) for the Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud.

Click to register and download your free copy of the eBook

UX design patterns and guidelines offer big wins for applications builders because they're proven and reusable solutions applied using Oracle technology. Our eBook enables developers to build a compelling user experience consistently, boosting developer productivity, and shortening the overall time to put a modern user experience into the hands of users.

Developers use the eBook to build their own SUIs
Developers use the eBook to build their own simplified UIs with Oracle Application Developer Framework (ADF) and Oracle JDeveloper

Oracle partners, customers and the Oracle ADF community can now share in the Oracle Applications User Experience science and design expertise behind those awesome simplified UIs in the Oracle Applications Cloud, and begin to build their own great simplified UIs too!

Wednesday May 28, 2014

Oracle Applications Cloud Release 8 Customization: Your User Interface, Your Text

Introducing the User Interface Text Editor

In Oracle Applications Cloud Release 8, there’s an addition to the customization tool set, called the User Interface Text Editor  (UITE). When signed in with an application administrator role, users launch this new editing feature from the Navigator's Tools > Customization > User Interface Text menu option.

See how the editor is in there with other customization tools?

User Interface Text is launched from the Navigator

User Interface Text Editor is launched from the Navigator Customization menu

Applications customers need a way to make changes to the text that appears in the UI, without having to initiate an IT project. Business users can now easily change labels on fields, for example. Using a composer and activated sandbox, these users can take advantage of the Oracle Metadata Services (MDS), add a key to a text resource bundle, and then type in their preferred label and its description (as a best practice for further work, I’d recommend always completing that description).

Oracle Composer used to change field labels

Changing a simplified UI field label using Oracle Composer

In Release 8, the UITE enables business users to easily change UI text on a much wider basis. As with composers, the UITE requires an activated sandbox where users can make their changes safely, before committing them for others to see.

The UITE is used for editing UI text that comes from Oracle ADF resource bundles or from the Message Dictionary (or FND_MESSAGE_% tables, if you’re old enough to remember such things).

Functionally, the Message Dictionary is used for the text that appears in business rule-type error, warning or information messages, or as a text source when ADF resource bundles cannot be used. In the UITE, these Message Dictionary texts are referred to as Multi-part Validation Messages.  

If the text comes from ADF resource bundles, then it’s categorized as User Interface Text in the UITE. This category refers to the text that appears in embedded help in the UI or in simple error, warning, confirmation, or information messages.

The embedded help types used in the application are explained in an Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience (UX) design pattern set. The message types have a UX design pattern set too.

Using UITE 

The UITE enables users to search and replace text in UI strings using case sensitive options, as well as by type. Users select singular and plural options for text changes, should they apply.

Searching and replacing text in UIT

Searching and replacing text in the UITE

The UITE also provides users with a way to preview and manage changes on an exclusion basis, before committing to the final result. There might, for example, be situations where a phrase or word needs to remain different from how it’s generally used in the application, depending on the context.

Previewing tech changes before saving

Previewing replacement text changes. Changes can be excluded where required.

Multi-Part Messages

The Message Dictionary table architecture has been inherited from Oracle E-Business Suite days. However, there are important differences in the Oracle Applications Cloud version, notably the additional message text components, as explained in the UX Design Patterns.

Message Dictionary text has a broad range of uses as indicated, and it can also be reserved for internal application use, for use by PL/SQL and C programs, and so on. Message Dictionary text may even concatenate at run time, where required.

The UITE handles the flexibility of such text architecture by enabling users to drill down on each message and see how it’s constructed in total. That way, users can ensure that any text changes being made are consistent throughout the different message parts.

Multipart messages in UI

Multi-part (Message Dictionary) message components in the UITE

Message Dictionary messages may also use supportability related numbers, the ones that appear appended to the message text in the application’s UI. However, should you have the requirement to remove these numbers from users' view, the UITE is not the tool for the job. Instead, see my blog about using the Manage Messages UI.

Tuesday May 20, 2014

Oracle Voice and Oracle Applications Cloud Simplified UIs in Israel

Just back from the Israel Oracle User Group (ilOUG) Business Day 2014 held near Tel Aviv.

I delivered a keynote on the Oracle Voice mobile app for the Oracle Sales Cloud. Later, I showed how to customize the Release 8 simplified UIs (SUIs) and how to build similar SUIs in the Oracle Applications Cloud with UX design guidance.

Israel is an inspiring location in which to talk about tech, leading the way with awesome mobile voice innovations such as Waze, so I empathized easily with the local audience.

Oracle Voice App Mobile UI

Oracle Voice Mobile App

My keynote began with an overview of advances in voice user experience, and how the technology has become a very hot accelerator to closing more sales deals. This lead to my live demo, performing typical sales tasks using the Oracle Voice mobile app in a Siri-like (and fun) way with  sales data in the cloud. I then shared the Oracle UX principles for designing a great voice user experience (VoX, anyone?).

Later, I also showed how business users can customize the Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle HCM Cloud Release 8 simplified UIs using composer tools, without writing a single line of code. My live show included the Hebrew language version of the Release 8 SUI, a first time demoed, I believe.

Hebrew Oracle Sales Cloud Simplified UI

 Hebrew Simplified UI Oracle HCM Cloud

Hebrew Oracle Cloud simplified UI

Hebrew Simplified UI Oracle Sales Cloud

I kept the SUI session short and simple (that’s the idea!) and then showed how Oracle ADF developers can go further and build their own SUIs in a few hours by using our free eBook on SUI UX design patterns, Oracle ADF components and page type guidelines.

Oracle UX eBook

Figure 4: ebook in Use. Got Yours

I ended the session by offering more resources for ilOUGers to explore, including how to get involved with the Oracle Usability Advisory Board, now active in the region.

A great event, and I was sorry I couldn’t spend more time in Israel. But, I was pleased with using live demos and with using lots of local Israeli and Hebrew examples. I think the Business Day attendees were happy with the performance too.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I’m back in Israel doing live app, local-flavored, outreach to another eager and engaged audience.

Special thanks to ilOUG’s Rami Margalit and to Ami Aharonovich for organizing the day and providing helpful local insight.

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.

Sunday Dec 15, 2013

PeopleSoft User Experience: Jeff Robbins and Jim Marion Customer Update at OOW13

What is Oracle doing for PeopleSoft customers to make their users even more productive and satisfied in work? Listening to their needs and investing in user experience is what!

For example, a new user interface is on the way, more usable than ever. Based on a user experience (UX) that is the essence of context and easy configuration for different business processes, the PeopleSoft UX  enables users to be flexible by personalizing their applications to suit how they work, and providing users with fast entry and a streamlined experience along the way to easy task completion.

In this Oracle OpenWorld 2013 video, introduced by Oracle Sales Consultant Jim Marion, hear about the UX strategy update from Jeff Robbins of PeopleTools about delivering the new UI and more. You'll also hear Jeff explain how PeopleTools provides solutions for desktop, tablets and smart phones while taking advantage of opportunities for simplification, too.

It's all there, and more, taking our PeopleSoft customers applications investment even further.

Saturday Nov 16, 2013

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.

Wednesday Jul 31, 2013

User Interface | Design Considerations

When it comes to creating superior applications, the central design considerations remain the same, no matter whether you’re building interfaces for desktop or mobile workers. Karen Scipi explores user interface (UI) design for enterprise applications, an area even more prescient as cloud-based applications offer opportunities for optimized UIs of different types using the same data. 

You must understand who your workers are, what work they do, and the functionality that will most enable them and their productivity in their specific work environments.  

  • A desktop user interface refers to an interface that’s optimized for tasks that are performed over extended periods of time, usually in an office.  
  • A simplified user interface refers to an interface that’s optimized quick access, high-volume, self-service tasks that can be completed on any device and from any location.

For example, the task flow for an accounts payable clerk who typically works in an office would differ from the sales manager who travels and works mostly on his mobile device. Which user interface design would work best in each of these scenarios? The answer depends on several heuristics and data points.

When considering which user interface to design, think about multiple aspects of the workers, their roles, and their tasks. 

Workers

Consider how workers’ experiences can vary. Keep in mind that the one-size-fits-all analogy doesn’t work when it comes to designing a user interface. 
Even those who use desktop interface functionality for the majority of their tasks can benefit from simplified user interface flows. But getting a sense of who your workers are and how they are working most of the time will help you better understand what Oracle Fusion Applications functionality they will most benefit from and which user interface might better enable their work and productivity. 

When you think about workers’ experiences, ask yourself questions like these:

  • Where in the world do these workers work? 
  • What do workers’ work environments look like? For example, do they work primarily in an office, on a train, or in a warehouse?
  • With whom do the workers engage, and how to they engage with others? For example, do they use collaboration tools or social media?

For example:

 Worker Role  Typical Work Environment
 Order Processor  Office
 Sales Representative  On the go

Tasks

Identify tasks that are central to workers’ roles. But what constitutes a central task? Central tasks are typically the 10% of tasks that 90% of the workers spend 90% of their time performing.

When you think about worker tasks, ask yourself questions like these:

  • What specific tasks do workers’ perform? 
  • Are the tasks self-service tasks for all workers?
  • Which tasks are central to workers’ roles?
  • How do workers perform these tasks? 
  • How frequently are these tasks performed?
  • Do the tasks require short or long periods of time to complete?
  • Do the tasks require significant or minimal data entry activities?
  • Where do workers work? On a bus, a train, in a warehouse?
  • Based on workers’ roles, work environments, and tasks, which applications, devices, and tools best support their work? 

For example:

Worker Role  Typical Work Environment  Typical Work Tasks Example Applications, Devices, and Tools
 Order Processor  Office Data entry

  • Order management and email applications
  • Computer with keyboard
  • Phone

 Sales Representative  On the go Engages with existing and prospective customers to maintain and establish relationships and to sell products and services

  • CRM and email applications
  • Mobile and tablet devices
  • Phone, collaboration, social media tools

Information and information design

When you think about information and design considerations for different types of information, ask yourself questions like these:

  • What types of information, such as customer or vendor records, accounting data, trends, issues, news, ratings, and so on do workers need access to? 
  • How would information best be displayed to enable the interpretation of it? In a workbook, in a form, in a list, in an analytic? 
  • What key information does the worker need in a specific task flow?
  • Can the information be simplified by reducing data and features, or by eliminating corner cases that are displayed in the user interface?

For example:

 Worker Role  Typical Work Environment Examples of Information and Information Display Types
 Order Processor  Office

  • Existing and new customer order records
  • Forms, lists, workbooks

 Sales Representative  On the go

  • Existing and new customer records, including customer contact, ratings, and qualification information
  • Sales, trends, and issues analytics
  • Lists, notes

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:


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?

Sunday Mar 17, 2013

Siebel Open UI on Full Throttle with Uma Welingkar: Free, Shared Resources

By Misha Vaughan, Oracle Applications User Experience

The Siebel team has been hard at work delivering a platform for Siebel customers to tailor their end users’ applications experience. To this end, the team's just posted a bunch of super-helpful training documents, for free, for any Siebel Tools user.

Alexander Hansal of the Siebel Essentials blog did a lovely job of laying out the motivations (user experience, simplicity, and usability) behind Siebel Open UI. But this post is about the other story, the tools story. A good tools story on UX is always near and dear to my heart, so I talked with Uma Welingkar, Senior Director of Siebel Product Management, to find out what’s behind the release of the content.

Siebel Open UI TOI site

Siebel Open UI Transfer of Information (TOI) is available on Oracle University, a public channel. No login is required, and anyone can access the information.

Misha Vaughan: Why did you decide to make this Siebel content available?

Uma Welingkar:  Just to give background, we put these TOIs out for internal use. We realized that we had a lot of customers clamoring for this additional information, to get started with Open UI.  So we put these out on Oracle University (OU). The TOIs are not complete, but there is enough information to get you started installing, configuring, and making little changes.

In Open UI, we changed the framework from a compile time to a run time model.  It allows customers to re-skin the UI on top of Siebel. The questions we got internally were the same questions customers were asking, because they wanted to go deeper than what we had in our documentation. So we decided to pull some of the information together. We took our own product management and engineering content, it’s not beautiful, but it’s great for our customers to pick up and get started with. We've seen an Open UI forum on LinkedIn where partners and customers are sharing together.

We talk about the technical aspects, as well as some insight into how to make the changes. For example, how to make changes around the UI controls, how to build mobile applications, and about style sheets, as well. We realized the first thing they needed to do was install the innovation pack. We decided to put it all together, the steps of installing the fix pack, and then next was a document on the specific function of the UI. We have seen a huge uptake of this, 400 hits a week right now, for each piece of collateral. We are seeing a constant uptake on these pieces. These are free presentations hosted through OU, as well as the recording of the presentation. They're self-study modules.

MV:  There is an Open UI Functional Overview presentation available. What kind of detail should folks expect to see if they dip into this?

UW:  This presentation talks about the functionality that was changed, for example:

  • List of values.
  • How the description field behaves in Open UI compared with the High Interactivity (HI) UI.
  • How smart script behaves.
  • The changes that we did to the call telephony interface (CTI) toolbar.

Calculator control in Open UI

Siebel 8.1.1.9 Open UI with calculator control.

MV: There is also an Open UI Deployment and Architecture Overview presentation. Can you give us a preview of what’s in this?

UW:   We talk about what has changed in the UI framework: How does it work?  How does it render? What changes you have to make. How they work together, the High Interactivity UI (ActiveX) and Open UI? What were the underlying framework changes? There are some slides specifically on the architecture before and after, and how the changes to the architecture help our customers.
Siebel ActiveX and Open UI compared

Side-by-side comparison of Siebel High Interactivity UI (ActiveX) with Siebel Open UI (click to enlarge).
Open UI's simplification and look and feel is optimized for user interaction across different browsers, and is enabled for tailoring to very high degree by customers and integrators.

MV: There is a presentation on Siebel mobile applications functionality. Can you tell me more about this one?

UW:   We have a new item on our Siebel price list. The new Siebel mobile application covers sales, service, consumer goods, and pharma. So, the functional TOI covers what is part of the product and the different processes that are enabled as well as how to configure additional views.  

We have built out-of-the box views for running on the mobile applications. It will also cover how you extend it, for fields or views, and build functionality that users are looking for. It's very similar to configuring a Siebel application on a desktop; it gives you all those pieces as well.

Siebel Open UI on iPad
 Siebel Sales iPad app built with Open UI.

MV:  What about the Siebel Open UI Calendar Functional Overview presentation?

UW:  The Siebel calendar has been revamped with the Open UI. We have built a lot more utility around the calendar options.  It covers both functionally what is available in the product now, as well as what can be done to configure it.  


Open UI Calendar

Calendar has been revamped with Siebel Open UI. An event driven UX, legends, and great locale customizations and user preference settings are available.

MV: How are customers responding to Open UI?

UW: A lot of customers across the different areas are starting to use Open UI in the U.S. and APAC. They have taken 8.1.1.9, to run both HI and Open UI at the same time. A lot of their production users can be on HI, and then they can move a subset of users to Open UI.  

Within the first week, we had 1,000 downloads of the product when we put the patch up for Open UI. There has been a lot of anticipation around this.   

MV: Can you talk about your enterprise applications history?

UW: I am originally from the Siebel acquisition.  I was at Siebel in 1997; I grew up with Siebel.  I have been with the product since Release 3.0. The one thing that I have seen is a lot of customers who have grown with us as well. Almost every customer that I talk to is so excited about the new UI. It’s gratifying to be able to hear that, especially being with the product for so long. 

Want to learn more about Siebel Open UI? 

See all the free courses available on Oracle University on Siebel Open UI.

There is also the accessibility features discussed in the Open UI Usability and Accessibility presentation (accessibility features are amongst the most powerful in Open UI).

Check out the Siebel Essentials Blog for lots more juicy tidbits on Open UI.

Attend the live, virtual training event April 10, 2013 10am-5pm (EDT).

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