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.

References

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 Amazon.de shopping cart before signing in

Searching for and adding items to Amazon shopping cart before signing in.

Bahn.de 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 Amazon.de, 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.

Wednesday Feb 22, 2012

Books for Fusion Apps Implementors and Administrators: Total Fusion Apps Experience

With Oracle Fusion Applications available, it's time for enterprises to think about business requirements and implementation plans. That means understanding how Fusion apps is developed and best managed.

Fusion apps is new, so what better way for implementors to deliver a successful project than to rely on the insight of those respected, in-demand, experts who can explain in straightforward language, and show in easy steps, how Fusion apps technology works together. Three books that do just that: Managing Oracle Fusion Applications by Richard Bingham, Quick Start Guide to Oracle Fusion Development: Oracle JDeveloper and Oracle ADF by Grant Ronald, and Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development—Made Simple by Sten Vesterli.

What's In 'Em, Then?

Highly recommended publications for Fusion apps IT professionals, the content is of a technical nature sure, but it pivots on the role of user experience. Together, these books bring to life the concept of consumerization of IT for enterprise applications by telling you how:


  • Fusion apps offers a new standard in user experience. Based on the Applications Development Framework (ADF) and Fusion Middleware (FMW) platform, a cutting edge, action-oriented AJAX Web 2.0 UI delivers higher levels of usability for users that can be taken even further though personalization, customization and extensibility capability (aka tailoring).
  • Implementation doesn’t need new hires or expertise to work with the technology. Fusion apps is built on open standards, leveraging access to Java and XML developers.
  • Fusion apps provides scalability in use and deployment. The FMW platform, SOA, metadata services (MDS), the ADF MVC framework, and reusable UI components and design guidance, enables implementors to flexibly tailor an experience for their enterprise's needs, provide for integrations, and maintain and future-proof the investment.
  • Fusion apps really is an enterprise experience ecosystem. Implementing Fusion apps you gives you access to a whole range of Oracle management tools that integrate with a top-notch support organization. Dashboards are not just for end users.

Book by Book, Exploring Further...

Richard Bingham is an Oracle Senior Principal Technical Support Engineer and a major pacesetter when it comes to customer service. (@richardbingham) Richard tells you how to keep Fusion apps end users, decision makers, and other stakeholders happy after implementation using next generation Fusion apps manageability, a key business enabler. Richard explains the Fusion apps product and technical architecture, and covers the central roles of the business process model and the role of user experience in design (user assistance is included; more about that at UKOUG Ireland).

Setting Fusion Apps diagnostic logging verbosity level UI

Setting the Fusion Apps diagnostic logging verbosity level in the troubleshooting UI.

An ever changing dynamic, the open nature of the Fusion apps technology, SOA, flexible business process execution, and a Web 2.0 UI means that apps users and managers will have high expectations so tools are vital. So, a powerful Fusion applications life cycle model based on goals of application reliability, availability, performance, optimization, and governance is introduced by Richard and a toolbox for each area explored. These toolboxes, based on Oracle standard platform tools and the Fusion apps supportability features, can be used by existing teams and resources available to them from Oracle. Richard's checklist for the Oracle enterprise application manager and list of resources gets you going on the road to keeping all apps stakeholders sweet.

Grant Ronald is an Oracle ACE and a senior product management executive in Oracle's Application Development Tools division. His book enables you to quickly understand and create a Fusion app using the ADF and the Oracle JDeveloper IDE . Grant makes it simple for you to grasp the Fusion origins, the Java EE, SOA, and Web 2.0 technology pillars, and the MVC framework concepts behind ADF. A JDev walkthrough and you’re ready to build an ADF app, from handling data with ADF business components to using ADF DVT and other advanced UI techniques. Super, no-nonsense stuff that I tried at home and built a Fusion app in a few hours. Tip: Read the book from start to finish first; don't start by designing a UI.

Sten Vesterli (@stenvesterli) is a Fusion User Experience Advocate (FXA) and Ace Director. His book gets you going with ADF and JDev to create enterprise apps in a methodological way that makes sense for development teams. With his “let’s do it” approach, Sten tells you how to make projects successful through planning and resourcing, a proof of concept phase, and takes you through the entire development process of putting a highly usable app into the hands of users. As an FXA, Sten knows all about the Fusion Apps user experience, and this book talks about the importance of design and usability expertise. A chapter on ADF skinning tells you how to create professional look and feel to your apps along with flexibility in deploying for different audiences and another chapter on ADF localization features enables you to take your app worldwide. More information about the usefulness of this book is here.

In Conclusion...

A great set of publications of tremendous value to implementers in going about making the best decisions in how to deliver successful implementations and to show ROI. A killer combination for the Fusion apps implementor and administrator's resource library.

Thursday Jan 12, 2012

Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development--Made Simple: Review and Opportunity

The holidays are a great time to catch up on required reading. I’ve just finished reading Sten Vesterli’s (@stenvesterli) book Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development--Made Simple.

Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development--Made Simple

This is a super book about the Oracle Application Developer Framework (ADF) using with the (recommended) Oracle JDeveloper IDE, communicated in plain language and easy-to-read style. Suitable for novice and experts with web development or Oracle Forms background, the book is written very much from the “let’s see great software running now” perspective.

All the essentials are there: the concepts behind ADF, the nuts and bolts of the components, and great how-to technical execution stuff. This is blended with valuable process insights and best practices right across the application development lifecycle, such as a proof of concept phase, planning, estimating effort, assembling a team, testing, deployment, and so on. Sten also includes information on how Oracle used ADF to create Oracle Fusion Applications. Take a look inside the book.

Of special note is a chapter on internationalization (i18n) and localization (L10n), something I am always relieved--if not delighted--to see, given my technology globalization interests. The market for Oracle applications is global and ADF has superb baked-in i18n and L10n capabilities: BiDi-enabled components using Start and End properties (instead of left and right), externalized text in resource bundles, hard-coding checks, XLIFF support, and so on.

Sten also brings usability into the application development process, with information on the importance of design (see the YouTube video below about the ADF Faces Rich Client Visio stencils provided by Oracle) and adding usability expertise to the team. This is a critical aspect to the success of any developed product or implementation (ADF-based, or otherwise). We (Oracle, working with partners and customers) continually up the Oracle apps community’s level of usability awareness and know-how that leads to successful outcomes for system implementors and consulting teams. We also curate customer and partner insights and experiences for the benefit of others too, notably through the Oracle Usability Advisory Board (OUAB).



UX Direct

Getting the benefits of apps usability to developers and implementors is what our UX Direct consulting service (featured at the October 2011 OUAB meeting) is about.

UX Direct

UX Direct take the superb out of the box functionality and flexibility offered by Oracle’s apps, matches it with Oracle UX expertise, and enables customers to accelerate their apps usage to the next level of user performance. You really don’t need special resources or teams to do it (but if you have them it’ll work too!), just UX Direct’s service and resources explaining usability benefits to implementors, showing how to find end users, gather their requirements and keep them engaged throughout the implementation process, what usability best practices and design resources to use, how to measure the results, and demonstrate ROI.

Using the UX Direct service's know-how and examples about Oracle apps tailoring opportunities (personalization, customization, extensibility, localization, and so on) delivers benefits of improved adoption rates, increased user productivity, lower training and support demands, and the satisfaction of knowing employees end their day happy with the app.

Develop Those Usable Apps Now

Watch out for more about the UX Direct service offerings from Oracle soon. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to read Sten’s book and take your apps to the next level of usability by using his work along with the Oracle ADF Rich Client User Interface Guidelines.

Incidentally, some folks asked me where the Browser Look and Feel (BLAF) guidelines used with the Oracle Applications Framework (OAF) for EBS are? They’re available on OTN here.

And, if you’re seriously interested in enterprise application development, then ask to join the ADF Enterprise Methodology Group (EMG) (@adf_emg) at http://groups.google.com/group/adf-methodology.

Find the comments if you’ve anything to share.

About

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

Profile

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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