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.

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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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