Tuesday Jul 31, 2012

Manchester Mini Maker Faire

Attended the Manchester Mini Maker Faire last weekend (28 and 28-July-2012). It was fun! My first time in Manchester too, and what a great location for the event: the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). I will definitely be back. Soon.

Learning to solder at the Manchester Mini Maker Faire

Learning to solder at the Manchester Mini Maker Faire

I didn't present or demonstrate at the event this time, my justification for attendance being research into the maker community and how we could reach out to individual, younger, and more innovative makers, as well as understanding their needs and wants.

From the UX tech perspective, I see the Maker Faire crowd as a ripe resource for usability research into younger users and learners, and fitting in somewhere into the Oracle Applications User Experience simplification roadmap. We should look closely at three Maker Faire fave technologies in particular, and how they could be used in the enterprise space to solve real business problems:

Even small devices and apps, as I was reminded by a MOSI exhibit, offer tremendous scope of use and lots of power to users of all sortd, depending on the context of use.

Comparing the power for today's tablets with the behemot computers of yore

Comparing the power for today's tablets with the behemot computers of yore.

This is fast moving space, exploding with creativity, and we need to keep current. Stay tuned.

I encourage you to attend the next Manchester Mini Maker Faire and watch, learn, and make too with some very interesting, varied, and helpful people.

You can find more reporting and thoughts about the Manchester Mini Maker Faire, including pictures, in my Twitter stream.

Monday Jul 09, 2012

Computer Says No: Mobile Apps Connectivity Messages

Sharing some insight into connectivity messages for mobile applications. Based on some recent ethnography done by myself, and prompted by a real business case, I would recommend a message that:


  • In plain language, briefly and directly tells the user what is wrong and why. Something like: Cannot connect because of a network problem.
  • Affords the user a means to retry connecting (or attempts automatically). Mobile context of use means users anticipate possible interruptability and disruption of task, so they will try again as an effective course of action.
  • Tells the user when connection is re-established, and off they go.
  • Saves any work already done, implicitly. (Bonus points on the ADF critical task setting scale for that one.)

The following images showing my experience while reading ADF-EMG Google Groups notification my (Android ICS) Samsung Galaxy S2 during a loss of Wi-Fi give you a good idea of a suitable kind of messaging user experience (UX) for mobile apps in this kind of situation.

Connection lost message with retry button

Inline connection lost message with Retry button

Connection re-established message

Connection re-established toaster message

The UX possible is dependent on device and platform features, sure, so remember to integrate with the device capability (see point 10 of this great article on mobile design by Brent White and Lynn Rampoldi-Hnilo) but taking these considerations into account is far superior to a context-free dumbed down common error message repurposed from the desktop mentality about the connection to the server being lost, so just "Click OK" or "Contact your sysadmin".

Friday Mar 09, 2012

Oracle Applications User Experience Mobile Apps Design Patterns

While in Munich, I also talked about the Oracle Applications User Experience (Applications-UX) Mobile UX strategy.

The Oracle Applications-UX team has made a strategic investment in mobile user experience, with a dedicated team of cognitive psychologists; usability engineers, interaction designers, architects, and so on that innovates fast and hard, brainstorms on cutting edge mobile UX design solutions for all Oracle applications. The mobile space changes rapidly, and this presentation generated a lot of excitement and energy in the audience.

Again, I used local examples to get the message across. I used the Android version of the clever-tanken.de app as a local market example (on the day the top paid Android app in Germany) and illustrated how important ethnography is to the user-centered design process behind our mobile strategy.


Finding that cheap gas in Germany with the clever-tanken.de Android app.

For example, although almost 90% of German workers are contactable out of hours, workers don’t always want to be reached and value their work-lfe balance. VW has agreed not to contact workers in six plants in Germany on their BlackBerries out of hours accordingly. So, from a user requirements perspective in Germany it’s critical to take into account those labor unions or Betriebsräten as stakeholders.

I also explained our user-centered, multistakeholder, mobile design patterns creation process (it includes Apple consultation in the case of iPhone app designs), and how these patterns provide proven cutting edge user experience solutions in a scalable, reusable way for mobile app development teams.

Developing apps using these up-to-the-minute olutions requires a development environment to match. The ever-changing mobile O/S landscape, ADF Mobile enables developers and partners to respond rapidly to changing user experience expectations without redeveloping content. We can support the same content, easily, across different devices with no compromise on user experience or native O/S navigation or actions, while addressing mobile data security issues that customers tell us about, and more. Read the Oracle ADF Mobile white paper for more details.

If you’re presenting to worldwide audiences about mobile user experience, then I recommend that you check out appannie.com for the latest market intelligence including local app popularity charts (it's iPhone, iPad and Android right now) and some very nice infographics on the state of mobile computing. Other useful stats on mobile usage growth, including number of devices and data usage, is available from techcrunch.com.

Sunday Jul 03, 2011

How to Capture Android Device Screenshots Without Rooting

For UX research and outreach purposes, capturing screenshots from live code is essential. People love to have examples from real world apps as design guidance, and mobile apps are no exception. Except, capturing screens from Android devices is a real pain. Unlike holding down two buttons on an iOS device, conventional screen capture guidance for Android usually has you fretting over the risks of rooting your expensive device first and then using a downloaded application (such as ShootMe) to take the pictures you want.

The problem with this advice, besides mastering the technical aspects of doing it, is that rooting a device generally invalidates the carrier's device warranty, so you do so at your own risk. If the procedure goes wrong, then you could be left with a bricked device and no recourse to official device support. So, I am indebted to Joe Welinske's new book "Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps" for an alternative way to capture screens from an Android device without using root, thought you do have to have the Android SDK installed:

1. Connect your Android device to the machine with the SDK installed.

2. On the Android device, go to Settings, Applications, Development and enable USB debugging.

3. From the SDK's tools folder, run DDMS.

4. From the Dalvik Debugging Monitor (DDM) UI, select your mobile device's name.

5. From DDM, select Device, Screen capture. A window showing what's currently on your mobile device's screen is shown.

6. Click the Save button on the Device Screen Capture window to use what's shown as an image file for on your blog, in design guidelines, for further editing, and so on.

Dalvik Debugging Monitor from the Android SDK

Invaluable for capturing those Android notifications!

Android Notifications

The gotcha in all this, of course, is that if you're nervous of rooting your device, then would you be the kind of person to go through all the steps to set up the SDK in the first place?

Really, what Android needs is a way for users to capture these screens easily without rooting the device and using special apps, or by using the SDK. Now, when is that going to happen?

Wednesday Feb 09, 2011

User Experience Guidance for Developers: Anti-Patterns

Picked this up from a recent Dublin Google Technology User Group meeting: Android App Mistakes: Avoiding the Anti-Patterns by Mark Murphy of CommonsWare. Interesting approach of "anti-patterns" aimed at mobile developers (in this case Android), looking at the best way to use code and what's in the SDK while combining it with UX guidance (the premise being the developer does the lot).

anti-patterns message about forcing wrong UI

Interestingly, the idea came through that developers need to stop trying to make one O/S behave like another--on UX grounds. Also, pretty clear that a web-based paradigm is being promoting for Android (translators tell me that translating an Android app reminded them of translating web pages, too). Haven't see the "anti"-approach before, developer cookbooks, and design patterns, sure. Check out the slideshare presentation.

Thursday Nov 26, 2009

What Do Users Want as User Assistance on Mobile Devices?

One of the great things about my job working on the user experience user assistance team is I get to do research all aspects of user assistance on all kinds of platforms and devices. This is serious research, but it's fun too!

I love working with mobile devices, and already have too many to play with at home too. Recently, myself and my coworker Rhonda Nelson conducted a focus group with some users of business apps on mobile devices to find out what alerts, messages or help they wanted while working. From our research, empirical observation (and own experiences) we figured that the possibilities offered by native device capabilities might be mentioned (consider, for example, how users of GPS-capable devices like the Android HTC or Apple iPhone might use Google Maps to "help" them locate or transit), but would this expectation be borne out by the focus group? What else would be revealed by the users?

Well, you can find out by reading the usableapps blog article "Researching What Users Want from Help and Alerts on a Mobile Device". We will continue research into user assistance on mobile devices, including the use of e-readers like the Kindle or Nook - really looking forward to some interesting UX research with our users!

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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