Monday Jul 09, 2012

Schmelp Portal, Help Portal: Oracle Fusion Applications Help Online

Yes, the Oracle Fusion Applications Help (or "Help Portal" to us insiders) is now available. Click the link and check it out! Built using Oracle Application Development Framework components.

Oracle Fusion Applications Help user interface

Oracle Fusion Applications Help user interface

If you're developing your own help for Fusion Apps, then you can use the newly published Oracle Fusion Help User Interface Guidelines to understand the best usage. These guidelines are also a handy way to get to the embedded help design patterns for Oracle Fusion Applications, now also available.

To customize and extend the help content itself no longer requires the engagement of your IT Department or expensive project work. Customers can now use the Manage Custom Help capability to edit or add whatever content they need, make it secure and searchable, and develop a community around it too. You can see more of that capability in this presentation from UKOUG Ireland 2012 about the Oracle Fusion Applications User Assistance and Support Ecosystem by Ultan O'Broin and Richard Bingham.

Manage Custom Help capability

Manage Custom Help capability

To understand the science and craft that went into the creation and delivery of the "Help Portal" (cardiac arrests all round in Legal and Marketing Depts), then check out this great white paper by Ultan O'Broin and Laurie Pattison: Putting the User into Oracle Fusion Applications User Assistance.

So, what's with this "Help Portal" name? Well, that's an internal (that is, internal to Oracle) name only and we should all really call it by the correct product listing name: Oracle Fusion Applications Help. To be honest, I don't care what you call it as long as it is useful. However, these internal names can be problematic when talking with support or the licensing people. For years, we referred casually to the Oracle Applications Help or Oracle Applications Help System that ships with the Oracle E-Business Suite products as "iHelp". Then, somebody went and bought Siebel.

Game over.

Tuesday Jun 12, 2012

Tweeting about Oracle Applications Usability: Points to Consider

Here are a few pointers to anyone interested in tweeting about Oracle Applications usability or user experience (UX). These are based on my own experiences and practice, and may not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle, of course (touché, see the footer).

  • If you are an Oracle employee and tweet about our offerings, then read up and follow the corporate social media policy. For the record, I tweet under the following account names: @ultan, @localization, @gamifyOracle, and @usableapps. The last two are supposedly Oracle subject-dedicated, but I do mix it up on occassion.

  • Complete the Twitter account profile, and add a profile picture too. Disclose your interest. Don’t leave either the profile or image blank if you want to be taken seriously (or followed by me).

  • Don’t tweet from a locked down ("protected") Twitter account, as your messages cannot be circulated to anyone who doesn't follow you. Open up the account to all if you really want to get that UX message out.

  • Stay on message. The usable apps website, Misha Vaughan's VoX blog, and the Oracle Applications blog are good sources of UX messages and information, but you can find many other product team, individual, and corporate-wide sources with a little bit of searching. Set up a Google Alert with likely keywords and obtain a daily digest of new information right in your inbox.

  • Add your own insight and wit to the message, were relevant. Just circulating and RTing stock headlines adds no value to your effort or to the reader, and is somewhat lazy, in my opinion. That said, don't steal other people's insight and links either. Attribute where appropriate.

  • Leave room for RTing of your tweet. So, don’t max out those 140 characters. Keep it under 130 if you want to be RTed without modification (or at all-I am not a fan of modifying tweets [MT], way too much effort for the medium). Use URL shorteners, remove articles and punctuation marks and use fragments, abbreviations, and so on at will to keep the tweet short enough, but leave keywords intact, as people search on those.

  • Follow any Fusion UX Advocates who are on Twitter too (you can search for these names), and not just Oracle employees. Don't just follow the people you like or think like you, or those who you think like you or are like-minded. Take a look at who is following or being followed by whom and er, follow up.

  • Create and socialize others to use an easily remembered or typed hashtag, or use what’s already popularized (for an event or conference, for example). We used #gamifyOracle for the Applications UX gamification design jam, and other popular applications UX ones are #fusionapps and #usableapps (or at least I’m trying to popularize it). But, before you start the messaging, if you want to keep a record of the hashtag traffic and analyze it, then set it up with an archiving service. Twitter’s own tweet lifespan is short.

  • Don't confuse hashtags (#) with Twitter handles (@) that have the same name. Sending a tweet to @gamifyOracle will just be seen by @gamifyOracle (me) and any followers we have in common. Sending it to #gamifyOracle is seen by anyone following or searching for that hashtag.

  • No dissing the competition. But there is no rule about not following them on Twitter to see the market reactions to Oracle announcements enabling you to tailor your own message accordingly.

  • Don’t be boring. Mix it up a bit. Every 10th or so tweet, divert into other areas of interest, personal ones, even. No constant “Thank you Joe Schmoe for giving me +K for this, that, and the other” or “I just ousted Mr X as Mayor of on foursquare" pouring into the Twitterstream, please. I just don’t care and will probably unfollow pretty quickly.

And now, your Twitter tips and experiences with this subject? Them go in the comments...

Saturday May 26, 2012

Oracle Applications UX Gamification Worldwide All Hands Day

The Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) group recently hosted the #gamifyOracle Oracle Applications Gamification Worldwide User Experience Design Jam at the Oracle HQ in Redwood Shores, California. This was a big, fun-filled innovation day for all Applications UX members, other invited Oracle contributors (from Oracle's Education and Research Industry Business Unit, Oracle Product Support, Oracle Technology Network, and so on) and external guests from our Fusion User Experience Advocates (FXA) program. And this firestarter (as I was the one inspired to provoke him into attending through @gamifyOracle, I take responsibility for him entering into the spirit of things in such style).

Hello World developer expertise badge used during event

Would be af:HelloWorld ADF component developer expertise badge used during the gamification process. Teams obtained this badge when they had sufficient technical nous in evidence at the jam.

The event itself started with introduction to gamification--nuanced and positioned for the world of work--and then a design jam. Teams (named after various well-know game characters) of participants with mixed backgrounds and expertise were each given a business flow or task and challenged to gamify it to maximize user engagement, participation, and productivity. Tasks from the CRM, Financials, HCM, Projects and Portfolio Management, and SCM worlds of work in the office, and on the go, received the best of the insight and science treatment that Applications UX brings to Oracle, and the results were stunning. Design deliverables were UX designs (wireframes and prototypes).

The process itself was gamified using an Applications UX-developed web app made up of a team management dashboard, a leaderboard, an information board, and a UI used by event administrators to monitor and reward each team's performance (see, even the gamification is gamified in Oracle).

Admins (I was one) scored teams on their use of game principles and game components throughout the day, resulting in earned points and badges, while extra kudos could be gained by teams themselves by checking in, going the extra mile, showing out of the box style thinking, and bringing their expertise to life in their design.

Teams hard at work during the #gamifyOracle design jam.

Teams hard at work during the #gamifyOracle design jam. Photograph: Martin Taylor (@theothermartin).

A fun but productive day, as all entered into the spirit, as I went around I was impressed by the earnest nature of the UX design efforts, the sparkling output, and the eagerness of teams to compete with each other. The day was punctuated by a cool set of videos with thumping sound tracks, featuring Oracle folks talking about the role of gamification in the enterprise, and what gamification is and isn’t.

Hammering home the point about the market relevance of gamification, the final stage of the team was a Dragons Den-type scenario where each team demonstrated their concept to the collective gathering who then played the role of crowdsourced venture capitalists, using another Applications UX-developed web app to invest virtual currency (did you see what we just did there?) in each design.

Showing off gamified enterprise app flow to the ersatz venture capitalists present

Showing off a gamified enterprise app flow to the ersatz venture capitalists present. Photograph: Ultan O’Broin.

The winning team? An inspired effort from the Bowser team. And of course, it had an external member, Oracle ACE Director Edward Roske (@eroske), who had a double celebration as it was also his birthday. Proves the point about the FXA program bringing something fresh to our table (kudos to Misha Vaughan for invitations): a fresh energy, a fresh set of ideas, and a fresh perspective.

Team Bowser was the winner, and was awarded this inexpensive yet tasteful trophy.

Team Bowser was the winner, and was awarded this inexpensive yet tasteful trophy. Photograph: Edward Roske (@eroske).

In all, a great way to learn about gamification, build team spirit, and create an innovative, contemporary user experience in a very agile way. Don’t be surprised if some of these eventually come to life on your desktop or mobile device soon.

Badges to Laurie Pattison (@lsptahoe), Erika Webb (@erikanollwebb), and everyone who organized the event, and especially to the attendees, travelling from all over Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America to gamify Oracle applications.

Friday May 18, 2012

#gamifyOracle: Oracle Applications Gamification Worldwide #UX Design Jam

Yes, a worlwide apps user experience (UX) gamification event happening, by invite, in Oracle's HQ in Redwood Shores, California. I'll be there...

GamifyOracle badge

Follow the #gamifyOracle hashtag on Twitter for more details, and stay tuned to this blog for more news.

For now, check out the AppsLab blog "Next Tour Stop: An Apps UX Design Jam" by Jake Kuramoto (@jkuramot) for more reveals...

Some Background

Sunday May 13, 2012

Mobile Geolocation Check-in Apps Text Style Notes

My research notes on the language style used by mobile geolocation-based check-in 'n' challenge apps, foursquare, Google Latitude, SCVNGR, and Yelp are available for download. Based on my field usage of the apps, this technical communications research brain dump is for you to make of it what you will and go in peace.

foursquare, Yelp, SCVNGR

Left to right: foursquare, Yelp, and SCVNGR screens

It’s apparent from this little distraction that, with the notable exception of the active voice and references to “you”, most of the remaining styles would fail the checks in operation by enterprise applications QA teams.

For such an informal, casual, or conversational style to ‘work’ for apps users, the context of use (who, what, where, when, with) is critical. This style of language, with a little bit of common sense applied, is acceptable to a range of user profiles in the enterprise world performing mobile tasks in CRM, for example. Enterprise apps users now navigate their world of work with a user experience (UX) influenced by the demands of BYOD, Facebook-driven globalization, Globish, and the consumerization of information technology.

What is listed in my document require some nuance to be acceptable to a wider range of users, as personal appeal, energy and edge leverages users’ motivations and goals while delighting them during use. Some of the more outré messages and cultural references would need changing, sure, but there is nothing in the source that could not be customized or localized. Consider it another form of affective or "emotional" user assistance.

I had the opportunity to write some such text for a check-in and challenge app recently. It’s not easy. What did I learn?

  • Research language style and grammar in context (use the mobile apps yourself in a sort of self-reflecting ethnography similar to the "going native" work done by the Oracle Applications Mobile UX team). My research was done in the Starbucks on the streets and airport terminals of Atlanta, Dublin, Geneva, and London, using Google Nexus S and iPhone devices with multiple user accounts.
  • Design with real text and not lorem ipsum text placeholders. To begin, write something, anything, that reflects the required UX, and revise it after some review and testing. Read Getting Real about this (a thoroughly recommend book all over for web apps UX).
  • When writing text you need to have context, such as a description of the check-in, when it happens, and what happens around it (do you need to congratulate on this achievement and extort to the next one too?, for example), a visual of the check-in badge or challenge details, and so on. Access to design materials, wireframes, prototypes, or beta versions makes writing a lot easier and innovation cycles shorter.
  • Throw your existing style guide out the window. Write a user conversation instead.

Comments welcome.

Gamification, Schamification: Reality Isn't Broken. Your User Experience Is

Gamification. Dontcha hate that word! Along with controlled authoring and machine translation, gamification is a self-sabotaging handle ready-made to alienate stakeholders; a sure-fire inoculation against viral acceptance of the obvious, and another obstacle thrown in the way of winning over the masses.

Who wants to be 'gamed' in work? What CIO buys very expensive enterprise applications that overtly claim to do just that to its employees?

Gamification is immediately conflated with play and gaming concepts; problematic in the enterprise applications domain. From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining “Gamification” (Deterding et al 2011) explains the origin of gamification and proposes a new definition: “The use of game design elements in non-game contexts.”

In the applications user experience (UX) world, I'd prefer to think of gamification as matching how users think as they work with the best design that will achieve task goals and business objectives. It’s not about how users play games with applications. It's about knowing user roles, tasks, goals and giving users a self-motivating experience that takes engagement and participation to a higher level, making application usage more satisfying. Sounds familiar now, huh?

Deterding et al (2011) are on board with this:

It is not possible to determine whether a given empirical system ‘is’ a “gamified application” or a “game” without taking recourse to either the designer’s intentions or the user experiences and enactments.

Without this user centered insight, gamifying an existing flow or application with an already rubbish user experience is a case of putting lipstick on the pig of work, and guaranteed to redline the BS meter.

Could I come up with a definition for gamification? No, but I can't define an elephant either. I’d avoid using the term altogether where possible.

Beyond the definition issue, of practical UX significance in Deterding et al (2011) is this table about levels of game design:

Levels of Game Design Elements table

Reproduced from Deterding et al (2011)

There is potential for a strong (UX) methodology there. Acknowledgement of the place of patterns, mechanics, heuristics, and so on, means UX professionals can construct reusable design solutions to common software problems. Such solutions are no different to what we have already published, for example, the Oracle Applications UX Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition design patterns or the Oracle Applications Development Framework (ADF) Rich Client User Interface guidance. These solutions readily leverage what is provided by Oracle ADF and Oracle Fusion Middleware to deliver scalable, easily developed out of the box, and extensible user experiences. Except that this time, those artefacts reflect the motivations of the user and how they think about themselves performing, engaging with, and participating in work.

By the way, to read more about gamification heuristics (albeit in the mobile space), I recommend Playability heuristics for mobile games (Korhonen and Koivisto 2006). However, it needs to be carefully nuanced for the enterprise applications world, especially the notion of “playability”.

So, if you’re done with all that literature, and want to play along, find the comments.


Deterding, S., Dixon D., Khaled, R., and Nacke, L. From game design elements to gamefulness: defining "gamification" (2011). Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments, ACM, New York.

Korhonen, H. and Koivisto, E, M. (2006). Playability heuristics for mobile games. MobileHCI '06 Proceedings of the 8th Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, ACM, New York.

Friday Mar 09, 2012

What Are Design Patterns? Proven, Reusable Usability Solutions

Just back from speaking about cross-platform design patterns at the Oracle Applications User Experience (Applications-UX) training event in Munich, Germany (March 6 and 7, 2012). The Oracle EMEA sales audience (yes, the UX Samba is worldwide) heard all about how Applications-UX research and design expertise created these building blocks for a new standard in enterprise applications user experience, how they are used by Oracle's developers, and what they mean for Oracle applications users, customers, and partners too.

What Are Design Patterns?

Design patterns are reusable user experience solutions to common problems or tasks in enterprise software. Using design patterns means our internal developers have proven, easy-to-follow design guidance implemented with Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) and Fusion Middleware (FMW) components. The development process can scale, and the result is highly usable and consistent user experiences in our apps.

We can also make those patterns available to customers and partners who take Oracle applications usability even further by creating new usable solutions when they tailor our apps. Check out these Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 10g and 11g design patterns, for example.

Design Patterns Explained

When speaking to non-UX audiences, it’s important to grab their attention early, speak in plain language, and use examples that they can relate to. In the case of design patterns, I could have told them about Christopher Alexander and A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (1977) and how design patterns became popular in software and web development. But they might not remember that or know how to apply it!

A sales audience wants to know about a competitive message about how design patterns help apps users navigate a virtual world easily, and how this knowledge can be used by to develop and extend usable apps. Using everyday examples that we are all familiar with, and adding in local flavors, gets the message across.

Item in shopping cart before signing in

Searching for and adding items to Amazon shopping cart before signing in. web site date picker

Using a DBahn date picker to automatically selects a date in the right format.

Google maps typeahead feature in search fields

Typing add in Google Maps is faster that selecting options from a list of values or waiting for search results.

So, to help illustrate, I used the “lazy registration” (that is, you can do your shopping and sign in or create an account later) on, the date picker on the Deutsche Bahn web site, the typeahead feature in Google Maps destination search, and a few other well-worn patterns that we now use on the web without even thinking!

Looking forward to the next opportunity to tell the Applications-UX design pattern story and to finding local examples that work for the audience too.


Oracle Apps Cloud UX assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps dev community, helping them to design and deliver usable apps using PaaS4SaaS.


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), PaaS,SaaS, design patterns, tailoring, Cloud, dev productivity, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW and ADF, and a lot more.


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