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.

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.

Thursday Feb 20, 2014

Taking Steps to Innovate: Walking Meetings at Oracle

User experience (UX) is about more than pixels on the screen. UX covers all the areas that workers crisscross on their way to getting their jobs done. It’s an appreciation that what happens offline can be as important as what happens online. It’s about exploring the established ways of working and emerging trends, and understanding how people connect and communicate. Even the smallest, stickiest job aid offers an opportunity for UX innovation in the workplace. Sometimes inspiration is right under your nose. 

Watching my Oracle co-workers, a diverse crowd that spans a wide range of ages and cultures and with a myriad of skills and experiences to share, gives me a window into modern ways of working that others have to pay to observe. Sure, we don’t have a beach volleyball court on the Oracle HQ campus (works for me, as I don’t do shorts). But we do have a beautiful lake.

Plain Sailin' at Oracle's Lake Larry. Where shorts are not needed to be cool.

Oracle’s Redwood Shores HQ campus is clustered around a spectacular lake, affectionately referred to as 'Lake Larry' by the locals.

It’s around that lake that David Haimes, a Senior Director in Oracle Financials Applications Product Development, changed the way he manages his team by introducing walking meetings. I caught up with him to learn more. 

A reasonably active chap to start (by U.S. standards), David was already swimming in the evenings and running at weekends. Then, his wife gave him a FitBit. With that little sensor on the wrist recording his daily activity stats, one glance at the FitBit dashboard analytics revealed those workdays when his activity levels were flatlining. Now, there was an opportunity to put some peaks back into those charts if he could figure out a way to merge work and play.

David recalled hearing about walking meetings on NPR and being impressed with the health and work benefits delivered. He read the good things Kaiser Permanente  (disclosure: an Oracle customer) shared about the practice, and saw the YouTube video about it too. 

So, come January 2014, David introduced walking meetings for his directs, walking around Lake Larry for their one-on-ones. The results are pretty impressive. 

Keepin' it simple on Doctor's (Pepper's) Orders. David Haimes and Floyd Teter.


Keepin' it simple. David Haimes (@dhaimes), and Oracle partner UX champ Floyd Teter (@fteter) of IO Consulting, walk the walk and talk the talk of today’s applications at Oracle HQ.

David’s blogged about his experiences to an eager audience, explaining how walking meetings enabled higher rates of problem solving and creativity in the team. Freed from the confined atmosphere of a building or office and out in the (usually) sunny Silicon Valley environment, he’s found that “meetings are more productive…we can actually talk through those issues we need to discuss, think about them clearly and agree on actions”.  And, those ‘let’s-take-a-walk’ moments are also a perfect way to broach tricky subjects that might be harder to bring up across a desk or on email.

Not only that. His daily mileage has gone from 2 to 3 miles a day to 4 to 6 miles a day!

Inspired by David’s initiative, co-workers in Oracle are starting their own walking meetings, too. Fans of this new “mobile” approach to workforce management name check Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg as early adopters, and there’s even a walking meetings hashtag. But, walking meetings are not just a cool thing to do. They come with business benefits.

So, what could this mean for applications UX?

David records ideas and actions during his walking meetings using iPhone apps and voice technology. Plenty of mobile tools are out there already to choose from, and we will surely see new wearables emerge for unobtrusively capturing notes and ideas as people move about. 

However, I don’t think it’s the technology foot that we need to put forward first. It’s the context—people at work connecting with each other across traditional boundaries to creatively solve shared challenges. That is the opportunity—how to enable people to connect and collaborate even more effectively—that we might look to enhance. The best wearable technology fits the user, and not the other way around. That’s the step we need to take to start innovating from how we observe how, such as taking walking meetings.

FitBit Dashboard
FitBit dashboard: Work-based opportunities for such data are emerging.

Then, there’s that FitBit (and similar devices). There are rich possibilities for what we might do with such data gathered seamlessly by sensors and then served up as dashboard analytics on a smart phone for immediate action or on a desktop for more in-depth analysis. Think about what this sort of aggregated data might mean for how we measure and manage corporate healthcare, wellness programs, employee availability, productivity, and so on.

Walk this way!

Thursday Feb 13, 2014

Learning to Build a Wearables User Experience from Mickey Mouse

Using wearable technology in work is a hot topic, offering possibilities of increased productivity for businesses by augmenting and automating the tasks of the wearer. 

The Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team recently ran a wearables design jam at Oracle’s HQ in Redwood Shores. This pilot event was for Oracle employees to learn how to design wearables for the enterprise and to develop an outreach program for customers and partners to share in the lessons learned in building such solutions.

Wearables at Work: Pebble Ideas Fuel Innovation at Oracle

Wearables at work: Use cases are emerging that add real business value 


Design jam teams were given an overview of the latest on wearables technologies and uses in the consumer and enterprise space. Cool apps already developed by OUAX for Google Glass heads-up display and the Pebble smart watch where demoed, live.

To power the teams understanding of wearables fundamentals and to inspire quick results, teams watched videos about the Disney Glow with the Show technology (yes, that's the Mickey Mouse angle) and about how rapid prototyping using household items lead to a game-changing, heads-up display device.

Currently popular wearables are built using different technologies, but use design concepts that work well across devices and make for productive building, such as the small screen card paradigm for information display.  Design jam teams were provided with UX guidelines that reflected enterprise build methodologies and usage requirements, a reminder that UX is now not just about how you wink; it’s about how you work. So, with this wearables learning in mind, the hands-on design began!


DIY Wearables Design Kit

You wear it well—design jam DIY toolkits being put to good use

The design jam was a non-coding event. Instead, teams were equipped with DIY toolboxes and given free reign to design a wearable that was as innovative or as “out there” as they wish with just two caveats. Firstly, it had to solve an identified enterprise problem and secondly, it had to be buildable with, or integrated with, Oracle technology. The result was amazing creativity quickly shown by teams, reflecting the diversity and talent of Oracle employees worldwide.

Team Air Glove Design Jam Wearable Creativity!

Oracle design jam team Air Glove solution featured heads-up display glasses, sensory gloves, and a special “Skunk Works” sensor (indicated by a WiFi-enabled skunk stencil). 

The design jam approach is a great way to learn about wearables and for newly hired employees to connect socially and professionally with co-workers in a fun way. And, there was a business focus too. Teams nuanced their wearable designs for the enterprise world, exploring how to integrate solutions with other applications and data in the cloud, for example. 

All designs were outstanding. After OAUX VP Jeremy Ashley gave an update on the latest wearables technology and opportunities, the team with the most promising design was rewarded by each member receiving an inexpensive, yet tasteful, wearable technology prize. 

The lessons from the wearables design jam and other user experience insight will be used refine our wearables enablement and expertise. That knowledge will be shared with our customers and partners to build wearables solutions too.

So, watch out for wearables enablement events coming your way! Stay tuned to the Usable Apps website and VOX blog, and follow @usableapps on Twitter.

Tuesday Feb 11, 2014

How to Chat Up an Accountant Safely: Social Networking in the Finance Department

Seems that baby boomers are now Instagram-ing, WhatsApp-ing and SnapChat-ing just like younger Digital Natives do. How widespread those apps are in the enterprise is another matter, but it’s a reminder never to make assumptions about apps users. Yet, certain job titles do sometimes conjure up a mental picture of how we think some people actually work.

Mention “accountant”, and you might visualize a gray picture of quiet, introspective types, heads down in books and spreadsheets, papers flying, calculators working overtime, phones to their ears begging cash from customers and wiring funds to suppliers, while accounting for all the money. Not terribly social, then? The polar opposite of those freewheeling “Mad Men” sales rep CRM types, out meeting and greeting, getting their message across to make that sale, perhaps? In fact, the finance department is a hive of social activity.

Accountants: Does the image we have reflect the reality?

Accountants. “Life in the fast lane” is contextual. But social activity in the finance department happens at a pace few other jobs experience. And they use applications too… 

I spoke with David Haimes, Senior Director in Oracle Financials Applications, about the social side of the finance department. David understands the reality of his applications users. “Their most critical time is the 5-10 days after period close when everything has to be closed out and reported”, David told me. “There’s a huge amount of effort and social interaction going on”.

During the close process, David said teams need to exchange information and make decisions as quickly as possible and still satisfy business and legal requirements. Accounting teams were early adopters and heavy users of instant messaging, email distribution lists (with Microsoft Excel spreadsheet attachments), wikis, file sharing workspaces, and of course, the old fashioned telephone. But these tools were external to the financial application and data. The user experience was disjointed. Who works well in a silo? And, there was no audit trail. David has seen accounting teams copying and pasting emails into documents and attaching them to meet that audit requirement.

“The finance department has to make sure everything is correct and legal,” David said. “They’re reporting not just to internal management, but to Wall Street, to tax authorities, and to other legislative bodies. And, since the Sarbanes-Oxley act, CEOs are legally responsible for the correctness of the accounts,” David reminded me. That’s pressure.

Things are even more hectic when you consider the nature of the enterprise financial department today, with its distributed team members with shared service centers offshore and everyone working in different countries and time zones. Everyone needs to communicate and collaborate efficiently, yet securely and transparently.

That’s where Oracle Social Network is a financial department win.  

  • Oracle Social Network conversations are tied to business objects and transactions, enabling finance teams to easily share and collaborate in a role-based way.  
  • Oracle Social Network conversations are auditable (which is “usually the first question I’m asked,” says David).  
  • Oracle Social Network conversations are searchable
  • Oracle Social Network is secure, with users with the right permissions working together on information stored in an Oracle database.  
  • Oracle Social Network is integrated with Oracle Financials applications, so the user experience is  streamlined.

“[Oracle Social Network] is a game changer in the finance department,” says David, not just for the closing period but also for daily financial activity. And, Oracle Social Network is available as a cloud service, with iOS and Android mobile apps versions too.

Financials close process using Oracle Social Network

A close process conversation using Oracle Social Network integrated with Oracle Fusion Financials—an enterprise social user experience for the finance department that’s secure and efficient.

With the Oracle Social Network user experience in the finance department, Oracle also satisfies today’s workforce that expects social networking tools to be as much a part of their work lives as their personal lives. Said David: “Younger users are already familiar with how social networking sites work and how they’re easy to use, and that’s the sort of user experience we need to reflect. It’s demanded.”

Having a social networking application as part of the job makes hiring and onboarding easier too, offering benefits right across the enterprise. And it’s not only Digital Natives or Millennials who easily take to integrated social networking in work. Even senior users now see the benefits.

Socializing the finance department with Oracle technology is an example of how a great user experience can engage workers, accelerate performance and efficiency, deliver productivity for business while meeting the consumer technology demands of end users, and satisfy the requirements of stakeholder user groups such as other departments, auditing and security teams, tax authorities, reporting agencies, shareholders, and so on.

Read more about socializing the finance department on the Oracle Applications blog and David’s blog (a bookmark must) too. And, check out what the Oracle Social Network Cloud Service now offers and how it benefits your users and business.

Thursday Jan 09, 2014

Oracle Applications User Experience and AMIS: Applied Vision and Strategy Together

AMIS Logo

The folks on the AMIS team have always knocked me out whenever they cross my path at conferences, user group meetings, and events such as Oracle OpenWorld. Their participation is always in demand. With their deep know-how about Oracle technology and a commitment to the business benefits of user experience, AMIS really “gets it.”

AMIS is a leading powerhouse when it comes to building solutions using Oracle Applications Development Framework (ADF) and is always eager to learn more about how to expand its possibilities and offer more. For these reasons, it was no surprise to see AMIS at the Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) expo held at OpenWorld 2013. Oracle ACE Director and AMIS Services CTO Lucas Jellema commented after the event:

“The expo provided out of the box thinking and inspiration with regards to the interaction between business users and computers and IT systems in general. It suggested approaches that are both realistic as well as fun. It also instilled a certain confidence that Oracle is really onto something with UX, and we are betting our money on the right horse.”

This March, OAUX and AMIS will take their relationship to a higher level, bringing a user experience and technology expo event to Nieuwegein in the Netherlands and sharing with others the latest thinking and concepts on user interface design and user experience.

Learn about simplicity, mobility, and extensibility at the UX event.

Simplicity, mobility, and the extensibility of applications, all built with Oracle technology, along with the latest device trends and integrations in the cloud will be some of the innovations that demonstrate the OUAX vision and strategy at the AMIS-hosted expo.

Oracle customers, partners, industry experts, and invited guests will get to see the latest user experience innovations built using Oracle technology that provides modern and compelling applications to enable today's workers to be more productive than ever.

This event is about engaging with, and inspiring, a broad set of stakeholders in the enterprise information technology ecosystem by showing off the result of Oracle’s investment in UX and the thought leadership, passion, and vision that drives the simplicity, mobility, and extensibility of applications used in today’s enterprises.

AMIS will also share what it takes to be a leading Oracle knowledge partner, what this partnership means for partner business and for clients seeking solutions with Oracle ADF, and what it takes to be a respected voice in the enterprise methodology world of applications development.

See you in the Netherlands. Who knows what secrets will be revealed about the future of UX and Oracle technology!

Details of the event, including registration, are on the AMIS website. (Dutch version)

Saturday Dec 21, 2013

Heads Up on Displays: Exploring Google Glass Globally

As a global Google Glass Explorer, I was drawn to the HuffPo's "Google Glass: Qué Guay!" article about reactions to Google Glass in Spain. I wondered about that Urban Dictionary entry (not safe for résumés) too, as I haven’t experienced such feedback. We have Explorers in Oracle, I thought it would be interesting to hear from some about what reactions they’d encountered the around the world.

London #throughglass

London pictured through Google Glass (pic: Ultan O'Broin) 

I’m indebted to co-workers Anthony Lai (@anthonyslai), Marta Rauch (@martarauch) and Noel Portugal (@noelportugal) for sharing their experiences. Not scientific in any way, this is 'after-the-fact' guerilla-style Glass user experience (UX) ethnography, is purely qualitative, and for fun, as we move towards the creation of Heads-Up Display (HUD) UX guidance.

Out and About with Glass

@noelportugal

Noel Portugal demos Fusion CRM App on Glass

Noel Portugal demos Oracle CRM app on Glass (pic: Ultan O'Broin)

Mexico

Most people do a quick stare but are hesitant to ask about Glass. Questions came from everyone, from taxi drivers to airport gate staff. They always include, "How much do they cost?" When showing someone how Glass works, others always gathered around to catch our conversation.

United Kingdom

Again, people were hesitant to ask. On the London train I immediately felt the gaze of passengers and overheard some guys saying, "It’s Google Glass!” Finally, one approached and I demoed Glass.

In Mexico, and the UK, I was asked if Glass was going to "take off”. My response was classic UX - “it depends” - especially, if the price comes down. If Google enhances it further, I see a future with a lot of Glass around me.

@anthonyslai

Anthony S Lai

Anthony Lai (pic: Misha Vaughan)

San Francisco Bay Area

Most people know about Glass, but not a lot of details. They’re genuinely interested, and this is increasing as more Explorers appear. There’s a small amount of negative reaction to Glass (I had one bad experience), but I’d say this is because others haven’t had personal experience of Glass (yet) and privacy concerns.

China

In Beijing, people were interested when they saw Glass, but very few knew about its existence. On the street, people would gaze at you for a second, but then look away to avoid embarrassment (a cultural thing). One man in his 60s knew about Glass and asked me if I liked it or not. There was only one other occasion when I was asked on the street.

I had similar experiences in Hong Kong as in Beijing.

@martarauch

Marta Rauch

Marta Rauch (pic courtesy: Marta Rauch) 

California

Everyone who tried on Glass thought it amazing. The most common response was “Cool!”, asking when and where they could get their own, and of course, how much it cost. The current high price is an issue for many.

At live events and conferences, the audience wants to try Glass and to be photographed wearing it. People are impressed by the Glassware apps available already (including the Oracle apps). They like the features and enjoy exploring by themselves. Typically, they’ll try a Google search and take pictures and videos. Some will even try a “Google Glass-bomb” by asking Glass something they think it won’t be able to answer, but Glass does pretty well with correct responses.

I am also asked when prescription lenses will be available, and if Glass is compatible with iPhones.

At Yosemite National Park, I wore Glass to take videos of the mountains, and tourists and rangers noticed and asked to try it. I also wore Glass to a NASA moon launch at NASA Ames Research Center to get some Glass images of the event. I was so surrounded by inquisitive geeks that I had to take Glass off and get the video with my mobile phone!

@ultan

Ultan O'Broin Selfie

Ultan O'Broin (pic: Selfie) 

Ireland

In Dublin stores, staff all wanted to try my Glass. They would first ask what it was and when I offered if they wanted to try, all accepted. Shopping therefore took a while, but everyone was knocked out by the experience. They wanted their own - until they heard about the price. Everyone got the hang of using the Glass gestures, but a few were confused and wondered why Glass needed gestures as well as voice input. Nobody had any privacy concerns. Many were quick to take pictures without asking the subjects (making me very nervous). Again, the prescription lenses questions came up.

Few adults knew the name Glass. They had a vague awareness of its existence, but they’d call it Google Glasses or even The Google Eye. However, kids all knew the correct name, and what Glass could do. I didn’t allow kids to try it, nervous about getting parental consent. I had a hard enough time getting Glass back off my nine-year old to continue “digital native” research, he loved it! College students knew what Glass was, approached me, trying it out with a “wow!” reaction.

I showed Glass in my local computer store and the owner identified a use case for working remotely on a service request (for hands-free location and directions to a site and knowledge lookup). In another store, someone said it would be ideal for hyper local ads about special offers nearby.

UK

Similar experiences in London as Dublin, even in big departmental stores. Sales assistants were ready with questions and eager to try Glass. I breezed into one famous store normally very leery of camera-toting tourists, but without problems. More questions came about prescription lenses, availability, and price.

I wore Glass on the Tube. In the close quarters of a packed train, I overheard passengers whispering “Google Glass”, but nobody asked me anything. I did hear that using Glass must be a cool way to watch music videos when stuck on the Underground!

In Manchester, I didn’t turn a single head.

San Francisco Bay Area

Lots of people identified Glass and asked questions. My favorite approach was “Excuse me, Sir, but I'm from Louisiana, and I have never seen a thing before like that on your head….”.  

In San Francisco, on Black Friday, I saw the twinkle of about a dozen Glass displays on Explorers as darkness fell. In a sunglasses store, I was their third Explorer that day. The staff was ready with “no, we don’t make lenses for it!”(They tried on my Glass anyway).

General Tips on Sharing the Glass Goodness

Our Explorers all liked and used the Android-only (at time of writing) MyGlass app’s screencast features for demoing Glass to others. Screen casting saves on passing Glass around to everyone and encourages participation as the crowd gathers. If someone asks about your Glass, then it’s polite and professional to answer, and offer if they’d like to try, when possible. Get their views, and thank them. Check with guardians first if kids approach and ask about trying Glass.

Cultural and Language Dimensions

Analysis of cultural dimensions to information and communications technology usually draws on the work of Geert Hofstede and Edward T Hall. That’s for later, and perhaps we can even construct new models. In addition to the ways our Explorers noticed how people approached around the world, here’s a few other global considerations.

In China and Mexico, we noticed that the Glass English-accented voice could present issues for non-native English speakers when communicating using voice commands. Also, anyone speaking in softer tones, Chinese women for example, may not be heard that easily by Glass. Ambient or background noise doesn’t help.

When demoing, Explorers were also asked whether you could change the Glass UI language to Spanish or another language (not right now).

The voice-to-text audio seemed to mangle non-English names (in Irish for example), but impressively, Glass learned how to get them right after repeated attempts. Acronyms could also confuse Glass initially, especially domain-specific ones (Saying UX first being shown as “You X”, but then pronounced correctly).

Keep an Eye  on the Enterprise

The word is out about Glass. HUDs will take off in a bigger way in 2014, and although Glass is the most well-known HUD in the U.S., and becoming so in Europe, there are others out there. Consumer expectations will influence the enterprise UX of HUDs longer term, but enterprise use cases have been identified that make sense to build now.

More Explorers Immiment

More Glass Explorers are coming, so expect more interest and use cases (Pic: Ultan O'Broin) 

Enterprise UX is all about context and stakeholders, so exploring reactions of more than just end users is valuable. Although this was a “fun” exercise, our Explorers’ insights will help inform methodologies for more scientific UX research and practical guidance to enable enterprise users to work more efficiently with HUDs.

So, Oracle customers and partners, stay tuned to the VOX blog and Twitter (@usableapps) for UX information and outreach about the HUD trend. You can participate in the building of wearable solutions to make businesses more productive.

More Information

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. You can even ask Oracle Voice to tell you a joke! 
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

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.

Building on Open UI: UX Strategy for Siebel: Tablets, Pharma, Field Service, and More

Check out this great video of Oracle Sales Consultant and UX Sales Ambassador Michael Klein interviewing Uma Welingkar of the Siebel product team. Usable Apps previously chatted with Uma about the Siebel Open UI and the free resources available to implementors and builders to make the UX go further, so we were keen to know more...

This video update, made at Oracle OpenWorld 2013, explains new Siebel functionality for different roles and devices, enabling customers to offer an optimal UX for their users, one that's demanded by today's CRM users, and providing even more return on investment for Siebel customers.

Special mention is made of disconnected offering for pharma sales reps and field service engineers, citizen self-service, revamp of customer dashboards, and lots more. Whether its sales or service, as Uma says, UX is about listening to customers's stories at events like OOW13 and through customer panels and presentations and then responding with specific applications to their needs. A nice shout out for how wireframes as part of this process is there too. Customers and partners take note!

Saturday Dec 07, 2013

Simple to Use. Simple to Build. Simple to Sell: Apps UX Enables Oracle Partners in the UK

Just back from Manchester, in the UK, where the Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) team (with Oracle Worldwide Alliances and Channels) held an outreach and communications event for Oracle PartnerNetwork members, this one aimed at applications pre-sale teams.

These events are all about sharing the UX message, partner learning, and an opportunity for networking and relationship building. But, they're a two-way exercise. Applications UX get to understand local market requirements and to respond with the right message and resources for customers and partners. Attendees tell it to us straight about how to make sales deals happen, and the insight we get from pitch-back sessions where attendees use those UX messages as part of their own sales stories is invaluable.

Julien Laforêt of Oracle France delivers a sales pitch based on OSN integration with Oracle Cloud Applications

Our latest UX Sales Ambassador Julien Laforêt (@julienlaforet) of Oracle France pitches a compelling social integration message to an engaged audience. Sold!

Learning and Listening

In Manchester, attendees learned the UX fundamentals of our Cloud applications, how to communicate the business benefits of our UX science, and identify enduring return on investment for customers. For example, one big win is the simplicity with which our Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle HCM Cloud simplified UI applications (available now in Release 7) can not only be used out of the box without training, but easily customized and extended using composers to meet customer business requirements, too. It’s simple to build on that great UX, without needing a major IT project.

The Applications UX team were listening. We heard how important social network integration is to applications customers, the must-haves for ease of use and tailoring, how regional customers must have those  localizations to do business, PaaS partner applications integration drivers, the enablement of continued ROI for coexisting applications, the need to address productivity needs of heads-down workers, getting that UX message out to Oracle Forms customers, meeting public sector procurement requirements, and more. Mobile apps were a very hot topic too, and our demoing of two Oracle apps (Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle Cloud Applications) live and showing off the latest mobile toolkit wiki of Oracle Mobile Application Development Framework (ADF) components and UX design patterns hit the target.

Ultan O'Broin demos Oracle EBS Mobile Field Service

Live demo of the Oracle E-Business Suite Mobile Field Service app by Ultan O’Broin (@ultan) (Springboard UX design pattern shown on screen).

Applications UX showed and shared demos for applications desktop and mobile UIs, all built using UX design patterns and Oracle ADF, and delivered the latest info on the Simplified UI Release 7 applications and how to use composers to extend those applications. We also revealed emerging innovations and business cases, demoing wearables, for example. The CRM Google Glass app was a big hit!

Noel Portugal demos Fusion CRM app on Google Glass

Noel Portugal (@noelportugal) demonstrates a CRM app live on Google Glass.

Getting Involved 

So, customers, developers, customers, are you preparing to join us in 2014? Watch out for more enablement events coming to your country or region next year. Stay tuned to the Voice of User Experience (VOX) blog and to @usableapps on Twitter for the latest details.

See you signed up for one of our communications and outreach events in 2014!

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!

 title=

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.

Sunday Oct 20, 2013

Making it GREAT! Oracle Partners Building Apps Workshop with UX and ADF in UK

Yes, making is what it's all about, with Oracle partners doing the making of great looking usable apps with the Oracle Applications Development Framework (ADF) and user experience (UX) toolkit at our workshop in the UK. And what an energy-packed and productive event at the Oracle UK (Thames Valley Park) location it was. Partners learned the fundamentals of enterprise applications UX, why it's important, all about visual design, how to wireframe designs, and then how to build their already-proven designs in ADF.

There was a day dedicated to mobile apps, learning about mobile design principles, free mobile UX and ADF resources from Oracle, and then trying it out. The workshop wrapped up with the latest Release 7 Simplified UIs, Mobilytics, and other innovations from Oracle, and a live demo of a very neat ADF Mobile Android app built by an Oracle contractor. And, what a fun two days both Grant Ronald of ADF and myself had in running the workshop with such a great audience, too!

I particularly enjoyed the wireframing and visual design sessions' interaction; and seeing some outstanding work done by partners. Of note from the UK workshop were innovative design features not seen before; making me all the happier as developers brought their own ideas from the world of consumer technology, applying strong themes of mobility, simplicity, and social to the building of work apps with enterprise development methodology. 

Partner wireframe exercise. Applying mobile design principles and UX design patterns means you're already productively making great usable apps! Next, over to Oracle ADF Mobile with it!

Partner wireframe exercise. Applying mobile design principles and UX design patterns to wireframes means you're already productively making great usable apps! Next, over to Oracle ADF Mobile with the solution!

Two simple examples from the design session for a mobile field service app illustrated this trend: Participants realized how the UX and device functionality of the super UK-based Hailo app could influence their designs (the London cabbie influence, maybe?), and the way they now used maps, cameras, barcode scanners and microphones on their smartphones could be adapted for tasks in work too. Of course, ADF Mobile has the device integration solutions to help too! I wonder will similar U.S. workshops in Silicon Valley see an Uber UX influence? (LOL!)

That we also had partners experienced with Oracle Forms who could now offer a roadmap from Forms to Simplified UI and Mobile using ADF, and do it through through the cloud, really made this particular workshop go "ZING!!!" for me.

Many thanks to the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) team for organizing this event with us, and to the representatives of the Oracle partners that showed up and participated so well. That's what I love about this outreach. It's a two-way, solid value-add for all.

Interested? Why would partners and developers with ADF skills sign up for this workshop?

Here's why:

Learn to use the Oracle Applications User Experience design patterns as the usability building blocks for applications development in Oracle Application Development Framework. The workshop enables attendees to build modern and visually compelling desktop and mobile applications that look and behave like Oracle Applications Cloud Service*, integrated with your partner applications, whether for new, or co-existing applications deployments. Partners learn to offer customers and clients more than just coded functionality; instead they can offer a complete user experience with a roadmap for continuing ROI from licensed applications while creating more business and attracting the kudos of other makers of apps as they're wowed by the evidence.

So, if you're a partner and interested in attending one of these workshops and benefitting from such learning, as well as having a platform to show off some of your own work, stay well tuned to your OPN channels, to this blog, the VoX blog, and to the @usableapps Twitter account too.

Can't wait? For developers and partners, some key mobile resources to explore now

* Oracle Applications Cloud Service is the product line name for software as service (SaaS) and On Demand versions of Oracle Fusion Applications.

Wednesday Oct 02, 2013

Oracle Publishes PeopleSoft User Experience Guidelines

Mrudula Sreekanth, Oracle Applications User Experience, tells us about sharing the latest PeopleSoft User Experience guidance.

The PeopleSoft Applications User Experience team is excited to announce the release of the PeopleSoft User Experience (UX) Guidelines. These UX Guidelines contain information about using key PeopleSoft components to create highly usable, efficient, and productive experiences for Oracle customers.

Oracle Applications User Experience PeopleSoft UX Guidelines

PeopleSoft UX Guidelines and Principles to Create a Great User Experience 

Several PeopleSoft customers participated in a survey in December 2012, which helped us identify the following topics, all covered in the first release of the guidelines.

Why Do We Need UX Guidelines?

With PeopleTools 8.53 and PeopleSoft Applications 9.2, you see more modern and visually appealing features being delivered by PeopleSoft. With the help of these UX guidelines, customers and partners can not only design and tailor their own user experience but also ensure consistency with the features designed by PeopleSoft. 

The UX guidelines explain each topic in detail, display relevant images, and provide usage guidelines. 

UX Guidelines Examples

The following image explains what a WorkCenter is and the advantages of using it.

WorkCenter image

UX How's and Why's of PeopleSoft WorkCenter 

The image below shows a train with sub-steps which takes users through complex tasks, one step at a time.

Train (Guided Process) Image

Train Steps Covered in the Guided Process Guideline

The next image shows the usage guidelines for Pivot Grids. Relevant usage guidelines have been provided for all the other topics as well.  

Pivot Grids Image

Pivot Grid Usage Explained   

The PeopleSoft UX Guidelines enable customers to design and tailor the ultimate user experience for their organization. Following the guidelines ensures consistency across applications. The guidelines also help in choosing the right pattern for any scenario.

Send any feedback and suggestions on the PeopleSoft UX guidelines directly to the PeopleSoft UX team using the comments feature below, your input will be forwarded to Mrudula.

Tuesday Aug 13, 2013

Building Great Looking Usable Apps Productively in Brazil

If you’re following the Usable Apps blog you’ll know that the Applications User Experience team has a great outreach program to enable Oracle customers and partners to build great looking usable apps by applying shared UX expertise from Oracle Fusion Applications with the Oracle Application Development Framework toolkit. This enablement happens worldwide, and recently the Applications UX team, together with the Oracle ADF team and Oracle PartnerNetwork held a Building Great-Looking Usable Apps workshop in São Paulo, Brazil.

Great Looking Usable Apps, São Paulo, Brazil Workshop

Some 20 partner attendees first learned about the UX principles for enterprise applications, why UX is important in business, and about visual design for enterprise UIs. Partner developers then got to try out this knowledge though fun, participatory wireframing exercises for desktop and mobile UIs, followed by bringing wireframes to life in code with collaborative hands-on building sessions using Oracle ADF with Oracle JDeveloper and UX design patterns, component guidelines, and other resources. A showcase of up-to-the-minute user experience innovations by the Applications UX team ended two days of a great return on investment for the partners' developers, consultants, analysts and leads who attended the event.

Brazil partners invitation

The event was facilitated by the local Oracle Brasil team who recruited participants, set up location by coordinating closely with the Applications UX team in Oracle HQ, and even contributed local UX insights over the two days to bring the UX message home to participants and visitors alike! Everyone learned something new, valuable, practical and most important of all, how to solve real business problems using enterprise methodology to deliver results that mean productive and satisfied users of enterprise apps and more ROI for licensers of Oracle applications.

Wireframing a service request task flow. With Oracle JDeveloper on standby, Brazil's Oracle partners get the idea!

Wireframing a service request task flow. With Oracle JDeveloper on standby, Brazil's Oracle partners get the idea!

All the makings of a great developer relations outreach program were there: delivery of technical insight, common sense approach to a new domain (UX), fun, challenge, revelations into new techniques and different ways of doing things, respect for each other's abilities, open and candid exchange of ideas, the triumph of giving over taking, and most of all a display of enthusiasm across all levels of ability and experience.

So, watch out for more UX enablement workshops coming to your region soon. And don’t forget there's other forms of UX outreach to suit your needs too: blogs, webinars, websites, online seminars, advocacy programs, and more; the Applications User Experience is all about sharing research, design, and implementation insights enabling Oracle ADF and Java enterprise developers, customers and partners to build great looking usable apps productively, worldwide.

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