Monday Dec 16, 2013

Designing the Oracle Voice User Experience: Oracle Shares the Lessons

Brent White, User Experience Architect in the Oracle Mobile Applications User Experience team, explains how voice technology has become popular for mobile users and how Oracle has met this opportunity to make enterprise users more productive too. By combining user experience insight and technologies, Oracle Voice has come to life for Oracle Sales Cloud customers. Brent now shares the lessons of designing voice-based task flows in the enterprise.

Voice technologies have now gained steam for mobile users, and growing numbers of consumers are becoming comfortable talking to machines. Some of us already regularly dictate a note, execute a call, or make a search by voice, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Voice has become a hands-free interface that goes well beyond a simple input mechanism and offers solutions to real design problems in the enterprise, as well as the consumer space.

Oracle’s Mobile User Experience (UX) team has been exploring voice technologies as they evolved. Our interest intensified with the release of Siri intelligent voice assistant on the Apple iPhone in 2011. By converging several technologies, Oracle has designed a mobile voice solution for our Oracle Sales Cloud customers, Oracle Voice.  And, more is to come!


Oracle Voice enables users to talk to the Oracle Sales Cloud; speaking naturally to view, edit, and add notes to customer opportunities. Whereas Siri enables users to interact with personal data on their phones such as contacts, settings and calendar, the focus of Oracle Voice is to enable users to interact with their enterprise sales data as part of an overall task flow.

Oracle Voice UI

Oracle Voice user interface. A clear UI and underlying technology that recognizes the names of important objects in the task flow are some of Oracle's shared UX design insights.

The UX team invested in technology and user research over the last two years to refine the product, testing it internally with the Oracle salesforce, and externally too with sales reps as they perform real tasks in real situations. Along the way, the team identified key guidelines for the optimal usage of voice in the enterprise. Here are some of the things learned:
  1. More and more sales reps are using voice technologies to get their work done productively. Expect enterprise use cases to increase.
  2. Voice to text is only part of the technical solution. Natural language processing (or NLP) and understanding users’ context are important related technologies that we had to develop in order to provide a voice solution. 
  3. Understand what enterprise users do, the when and the where, of being mobile. Support only such users most frequent and basic tasks. Voice is not for everything. 
  4. Make voice usage a hands-free operation. And don’t forget any legal requirements, for example when driving.
  5. Voice recognition must understand user data, such as the names of important objects in their task flows and the relationships between the objects. For example, voice must recognize the input of proper names, such as customer names, that are part of the sales cloud. 
  6. Users will want to use voice-based search to find key information. For instance, users will want to just say the name of a customer in order to see opportunity details returned. Provide for fast search and a way to integrate the results.
  7. Make the UI clear so that users know what task flow is being completed. Misrecognitions of voice inputs do happen, so provide an ability to correct misrecognitions easily and to continue. 
  8. Keep voice interaction flows short. Remember, a human is talking to a machine that understands enterprise data but hardly anything else, until it learns it. It is not a normal human conversation (yet!) so flows must be as succinct and efficient as possible. 
  9. Although some users may have had only basic experiences with voice recognition in the past, most users that we bring into our usability labs are now surprised at how well the current-state of the-art technology works and helps them to complete simple activities much more quickly (such as when dictating by voice rather than typing a note). With voice recognition accuracy improving steadily, be positioned to respond to more new scenarios of use by having your voice UX roadmap ready.
  10. Add some personality to the voice interaction. Experiment with sounds for the microphone interaction and the opportunities offered by the many natural-to-machine type voice outputs now available. Personality and emotion  adds to the voice user experience. Careful use of humor and an aspect of fun has its place in augmenting productivity on the go. 
We’re sharing these insights so that partners and customers can further appreciate and also explore further how Oracle Voice can make their users more productive and how it can be integrated across enterprise applications and data in the cloud. 

We’d like to hear your voice on the use of Oracle Voice and related technology and its usage in the enterprise. Please send us your comments, because we’re listening

Monday Mar 25, 2013

How to Develop Great Oracle Applications User Experiences with Design Patterns

Enterprise application software development is all about being smart with architecture and methodology as well as knowing your code. Best practices such as using software design patterns for the abstraction of UI from logic (for example, the object oriented Abstract Factory and Decorator design patterns) are great reusable solutions and productivity enhancers that developers already rock with.

Oracle ADF developers will already be familiar with the concept of separating UI and logic, abstraction, and reuse through the underlying Model View Controller and Java EE patterns of ADF, the declarative componentization of ADF Faces, skinning, and perhaps most strikingly by the code-once for different platforms paradigm of ADF Mobile.

ADF and Applications UX design patterns and guidelines built the Fusion Apps UX

The ADF components and guidelines and Oracle Fusion Applications patterns and guidelines used by Oracle
as the building blocks for the Oracle Fusion Applications UX are used by customers and partners to
build great applications customizations and extensions too.

Design Patterns and Applications Development

Enterprise software architecture patterns make for productive development while providing for enterprise requirements of scalability, performance, security, and maintenance. It also enables customers and partners to take advantage of a great user experience (UX). UI or platform changes? No problem...

UX design patterns are the interaction (or usability, if you like) equivalent of software architectural design patterns. True to the design pattern concept, UX design patterns, too, are common reusable solutions. Based on ADF component usage guidelines and insight into how users work, the Oracle Fusion Applications UX design patterns mean that ADF developers can now go much further than writing code, by building a great user experience for applications users.

The UX design patterns can also be used to solve usability design problems in applications developed using other technology frameworks, and you can see them at work in Oracle applications (Oracle EBS, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel, and so on) too.

Proving the Development Benefits of Design Patterns

Using these already tested UX design patterns enables productive development (why sweat the UI or usability on top of code issues?). Applying them to a scalable and flexible enterprise software architecture means continued ROI for apps customers who can continue to uptake advances in functionality through a consistent, compelling, modern applications user experience.

BS theory? No. I came across a compelling design pattern methodology story recently of how an Oracle E-Business Suite customization based on UI abstraction was built with Oracle ADF and BEPL by a partner, Innowave Technologies. The Oracle Fusion Applications UX design patterns provided the UI for the underlying logic (a user experience based on a UI Shell with dynamic tabs as the transactional work area as it happens).

Dynamic tabs guideline

Dynamic tabs work area guidelines from Oracle Applications User Experience.
Dynamic tabs are a great usability solution for multi-tasking users who like to work flexibly.

Basheer Khan, Innowave Technologies CEO told me “An excellent proof point of using UX design patterns on an abstracted UI was that our client upgraded functionality from one EBS release to the next while we built their apps modules. We were then able to connect the users into the latest functionality seamlessly.”

A solid architecture of UI abstraction and UX design patterns means Oracle Applications customers can now upgrade versions of Oracle applications and have a smooth path to coexistence and eventual full Oracle Fusion Applications adoption. The loose coupling of UI and functionality approach means development and QA efficiencies with the result of a shorter time to go live. Instead of business downtime with loss of productivity for users, there is painless user  adoption and performance delivered from the proven productive and consistent UX solutions of design patterns. Basheer continues:

“CIOs are enthusiastic that they can have an upgrade smooth path for upgrades that also gives their users a compelling and modern UX along the way.”

So, if you’re an applications customer, or on the journey to Fusion, think about how Oracle technology and UX together provides a roadmap for continued ROI from your applications regardless of deployment model.

Smart partners like Basheer’s are ready to provide such ROI to customers, and he tells me “By default the Innowave team leverages the design patterns, it’s become part of our culture now to add usability to functionality. It helps us differentiate our approach from other partners.”

Productive Cloud Development

As chief evangelist for the UX design patterns story I tell our customers, partners and the development community about how design patterns are created and the benefits of using them. I love stories like Innowave Technologies’; it’s when I see the story happen in the wild that I really feel like we’ve moved to the next phase of the UX design pattern proposition. And it’s still evolving: moving to the cloud and ever-fluid development with our toolkit, with customers demanding the best of what Oracle technology offers as well as great UX, means techniques such as abstraction of UIs and UX design patterns will become even more important to developers.

Cloud-based development using  hot-pluggable remote task flows, web services, and APIs is the way to go for competitive enterprise application uptake in the cloud, but apps users still demand a UI they know and want to use! So, as the cloud development community accelerates through the trajectory of not writing UIs, but writing UI services instead, they can turn to the UX design patterns as the front-end usability solution for the cloud development model. We’re done the usability thinking so that cloud developers don’t have to.

How to Find UX Design Patterns

To get going with the UX design patterns, go to the Usable Apps website and find the For Developers section. And, for more UX developer enablement, such as for the building great looking usable apps workshops and helping ADF developers to build great enterprise applications, keep coming back to Voice of User Experience (VOX) blog, or follow along with the latest and greatest on Twitter (@usableapps).

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