Saturday Aug 10, 2013

The Feng Shui of UX: Visit the Usability Labs Yourself

Join me as I show off the Applications User Experience usability labs. The labs are part of our scientific based research into how users really work and what they want. Central to our design and testing efforts, the activities in the lab also lead to us baking in usability into Oracle ADF components so that developers can be really productive making great looking usable apps, consistently. Read more about this "Feng Shui" of Fusion UX, as Grant Ronald calls it, in the UK Oracle User Group's Oracle Scene Magazine.




If you would like to visit the labs in Redwood Shores, perhaps as part of your Oracle Open World 2013 itinerary, well go to the Usable Apps website and under the Get Involved Section use the Tour the Lab link. Or you can contact me on Twitter and I will redirect your request.

Sunday Jul 28, 2013

Keep Taking the Tablets. Early Adopter UX Developer Type Wanted

Here's a free "how to" guide from Oracle Applications User Experience published on OTN that will excite designers, developers, and project managers and get them productively building great tablet solutions with enterprise-level methodologies (are you listening ADF EMG [Application Development Framework Enterprise Methodology Group]?).

If you're embarking on a tablet application design project, then start out with our interactive Oracle Applications User Experience Tablet Guide iBook (yes, you need an iPad).


Develop cool optimized tablet solutions to leverage your cloud applications data with Applications UX's resources.

There's a great conversation on the ADF EMG group about this new resource. And we have a request of our ADF development community: If you're a mobile developer on a tablet project, developing for a native O/S or (preferably, natch) with Oracle ADF Mobile or ADF Faces, who wants to evaluate the guide and provide feedback and examples of how you've used it to build solutions, then let us know using the comments. We can feature your work and findings, if you wish.


Oracle Applications User Experience Tablet Guide

Oracle Applications User Experience Tablet Guide: Early adopter developer wanted.

If you must, well there's a PDF version too.

The outreach continues! Watch out for more announcements of events and happenings to enable developers and other stakeholders in the applications development world to build great looking usable apps on mobile and other devices by checking in regularly on the Voice of User Experience (VoX) blog and following along on Twitter at @usableapps.

Monday Jul 22, 2013

Researching UX in Favorite Places: Consumer Tech's in Business

I’ve been out and about doing usability research in the wild (or ethnography, to give it the posh UX name) in some favorite places: in coffee shops and on fishing boats. Both are places of work on the go or remote working (there are some very successful strategies out there to get the best out of these types of workers too, as Apple's example shows). I wanted to discover more about the applications side, what devices were used, what other tools were used, what tasks are being done, and how what was going on around all the users affected things. In other words, I was exploring the context of use side of user requirements gathering.


Half Moon Bay, California: Fishing Boat captain using Square on iPhone for mobile payments

I’ve written about the concept of the "coffice" elsewhere, but it's worth bearing in mind, as pointed out by Lucy Kellaway in the Financial Times out that this "trend" of working from coffee shops (or houses) is 350 years old, originating (probably) in London in the 1650’s when coffee shops became places of trade for ship insurance, sugar, human hair even, and so on. The energy has changed now with today's patrons staring silently into laptop and tablet devices, where previously there was much human conservation. That is not to say that collaboration and exchange between users doesn’t exist though. It clearly does, but technology has changed its nature, as text and tech replaces talk, though there is some evidence that a certain level of background ambient noise does enable productivity! The data exchanged and tasks in evidence or course, pivot through the cloud, and happen across other devices and locations too. So, "work" can happen as and when needed.

As for fishing boats, well come early morning you can now see mobile payment solutions such as Square in action with captains taking payments on the spot with their iPhones, checking the latest Yelp check-ins about their vessel, and sending Instagrammed pictures of catches to their customers using their smart phones from the deck. Again, CRM in action, notably with a reliance on wireless data exchange that didn’t always work ,with lost connections from deep within vessel hulls and when out at sea. Offline versions anyone? And I wonder if they should invest in waterproof phones too!

My kind of research! Watch this space for more places and events. The consumerization of information technology influences our working lives all the time, and UX needs to research user requirements and design accordingly. We're all UX designers now...

This is what I love so much about being a UX pro. You can see it in action all around you, and have fun observing and thinking about how new solutions to problems might be. Besides, I could never let a creative challenge from Misha Vaughan to use my other passions as part of the UX story go by!

Saturday Jun 29, 2013

Oracle Endeca User Interface Design Pattern Library Available


Endeca User Interface Design Pattern Library

Yes! The Oracle Endeca User Interface Design Pattern Library is now available for all fans of great UI design solutions for search, discovery, and navigation. The patterns explain great user experience solutions and show great UI realizations that include consumer world examples we can all relate to. Thanks to the Oracle Endeca and Applications UX teams who worked closely together to bring this great user experience resource back out to developers, customers and partners to build cutting edge apps, sites, and integrations.

Some great insights into how these UI design patterns can bring magical information discovery, and more, to users, as well as what makes Endeca people tick, are available from the Usable Apps blog Oracle Endeca User Experience: From Putting the E in E-Commerce to Magical Information Discovery.

More UX design patterns and guidelines are available from the For Developers section of the Usable Apps website.

Loose Coupling and UX Patterns for Applications Integrations

image of train coupling, creative commons licensed from wikipedia

I love that software architecture phrase loose coupling. There’s even a whole book about it. And, if you’re involved in enterprise methodology you’ll know just know important loose coupling is to the smart development of applications integrations too.

Whether you are integrating offerings from the Oracle partner ecosystem with Fusion apps or applications coexistence scenarios, loose coupling enables the development of scalable, reliable, flexible solutions, with no second-guessing of technology.

Another great book Enterprise Integration Patterns: Designing, Building, and Deploying Messaging Solutions tells us about loose coupling benefits of reducing the assumptions that integration parties (components, applications, services, programs, users) make about each other when they exchange information. Eliminating assumptions applies to UI development too. The days of assuming it’s enough to hard code a UI to software code with linking libraries running on a desktop PC in the office are over.

The book predates PaaS development and SaaS deployments, and was written when web services and APIs were emerging. Yet it calls out how using middleware as an assumptions-dissolving technology “glue" is central to applications integration. Realizing integration design through a set of middleware messaging patterns (messaging in the sense of asynchronously communicating data) that enable developers to meet the typical business requirements of enterprises requiring integrated functionality is very Fusion-like.

User experience developers can benefit from the loose coupling approach too. User expectations and work styles change all the time, and development is now about integrating SaaS through PaaS.

Cloud computing offers a virtual pivot where a single source of truth (customer or employee data, for example) can be experienced through UIs (desktop, simplified, or mobile) that are optimized for the user's context of a varying world of work. Smart enterprise applications developers, partners, and customers use design patterns for user experience integration benefits too.

The Oracle Applications UX design patterns (and supporting guidelines) enable loose coupling of the optimized UI requirements from the application logic and hooks. Developers can get on with the job of creating integrations through web services, APIs and SOA without having to figure out design problems about how UIs should work. Adding the already user proven UX design patterns (and supporting guidelines to your toolkit means ADF and other developers can easily offer much more than just functionality and be super productive too. Great looking application integration touchpoints can be built with our design patterns and guidelines too for a seamless applications UX.

One of Oracle’s partners, Innowave Technology, used loose coupling architecture and our UX design patterns to create an integration for a customer that was scalable, cost effective, fast to develop and kept users productive while paving a roadmap for customers to keep pace with the latest UX designs over time. Innowave President and CEO Basheer Khan, a Fusion User Experience Advocate, explains how to do it on the Usable Apps blog.

Sunday May 12, 2013

Building Oracle Partner Fusion Apps UI Integrations in the Cloud with UX Patterns & Guidelines

Oracle has a powerful and rich partner ecosystem that offer many value-add solutions for users of our applications. To get the most of integrating these solutions with Fusion and other applications, ISV developers need to go beyond functionality and provide a great UX too. The basis of this UX is a consistent and streamlined navigation and a productivity-based task completion user interface (UI) between applications; one that is as seamless and transparent to the users as possible. This means much more than "look and feel".

By using the Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience Design Patterns and Guidelines developers can now easily provide the same elegant navigation 'touch points' that Fusion applications. No need to sweat over designing new usability solutions! Here is a quick overview of a couple of UI options when integrating Fusion applications and other applications.

Remember to read up on the best toolkit to apply these touchpoints and what your preferred deployment can support, but for Desktop UIs you can get going right away applying these integrations using the Application Composer. Check out the information on extensibility on the Fusion Applications Developer Relations blog.

So, let's assume our UI use case is to integrate a Fusion CRM opportunity with a quote or price configuration solution, and see how we might use the UX design patterns and guidelines when designing UI integrations.

The simplest integration point afford no context for users, so is really a quick solution or one used when there is no context needed, no requirement to exchange data, and there is no specified object being configured. To implement, add a link from the relevant functional area in the global Navigator to the solution concerned. In this case, we have added a link called Quotes under the Sales area.


Global Area Navigator


Fusion Application UI Global Area Navigator

Your key design resource here is the guidance we provide about the applications Navigation Model.

A much better, contextual and object-specific integration would be to leverage a task-based flow and exchange data between Fusion and the other application. You can do this using the tasks area in the UI Shell to create and manage tasks, a page-level button to inititate an action without navigating away, and a tab with an iFramed UI mashup of data showing the results of the data exchange with the other application. In the following screen mockups you can see the Create Quote and Manage Quotes links in the Tasks Pane, the Quote page-level action button and then a tab with Quotes illustrating this kind of UI.


Tasks Pane with Create and Manage Actions


Fusion Application UI Tasks Pane with Manage and Create Links


Page Actions Button and Tab


Fusion Application UI Page Actions Quote Button and Quotes Tab with UI Mashup of Table Data

The key design resources for this higher-level integration are the UX guidelines on the Navigation model, UI Shell template, Tasks Pane, Page Actions, and Work Areas information on tabs.

Typically with such integrations, you can then take this much further and also use saved search and collaboration guidelines too to provide a richer UX. You can find design information about those interactions, and more, on the Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience Design Patterns and Guidelines website.

The Applications UX team is working closely with our ADF and Platform Technology Solutions colleagues to enable partners and customers to build great-looking usable partner integrations for the Desktop and Simplified UIs on-premise and in the cloud, so stay tuned for news and coverage of our outreach workshops and more resources.

Unsaved Changes: Oracle ADF Functional Patterns and Best Practices Shout-out

One UX question that seems comes up now and then with ADF apps is how to handle when users navigate away from an application page that has unsaved or uncommitted changes on it. This might happen when users decide to navigate to another location to look something up without opening a new tab, or when they use the browser back button to try go back to a previous step in a task.

Now, it is not an unreasonable these days that users would want to navigate using the back button. But this consumerized IT expectation is not something that our ADF apps can accommodate. A combined productivity hit and the high value of enterprise data means that users need to be warned of the implications of navigating using the browser back button or loading a new page, if they continue.

There is another UX implication should users choose to use the back button. Because of how our task flows are constructed they will be taken back to the last URL, which is not necessarily the last step in their task flow if the URL hasn't changed within the flow. So there is an unpredictable outcome to where users will be taken within the application.

Using the backspace key can have the same result as using the browser back button, because it most browsers the backspace key is mapped to the back button.

One handy way to warn users about unsaved and uncommitted changes on navigating away from their page is to use the af:document tag's uncommittedDataWarning property. This is explained, along with use cases, and other great patterns on on the Oracle Application Development Framework Functional UI Patterns & Best Practices website.

Shay Shmeltzer also has a great video of how the unsaved or uncommitted changes warning is implemented on his blog.



What ADF is providing here is a hook into a warning message which comes from the browser, not from ADF itself, so the phrasing of the message in the dialog box is not something developers can control. So, although users can informed of about unsaved changes being lost should they continue, the unexpectation navigation issue is not mentioned (this is something being worked on by Applications UX).

Check out the implementation of the unsaved and uncommitted data warning and the other ADF functional patterns and best practices on the site too. This is a great resource for productive development used along with the ADF Faces Rich Client User Interface Guidelines and Oracle Fusion Applications UX design patterns.

About

Oracle applications user experience (UX) assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps community, helping to design and deliver usable apps.

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Ultan Ó Broin. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @ultan

See my other Oracle blog about product globalization too: Not Lost in Translation

Interests: User experience (UX), user centered design, design patterns, tailoring, BYOD, dev relations, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW and ADF, and a lot more.

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