Saturday Dec 28, 2013

APIs are User Experience Design Too

The developer's favorite UX guru and industry champion, Jared Spool, nails today's way of providing great user experiences in his User Interface Engineering (UIE) article "APIs: The Future is Now".

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a platform for user experience too, offering the prospect of a seamless user experience (UX) between applications and services. UX designers are emerging as the enablers of great user experiences in the cloud, all built using LEGO-like building blocks of application programming interfaces (APIs). Those other building blocks, UX design patterns bring those integrated experiences to life making design and development for cloud solutions more productive than ever.

Jared continues with his UIE insight:


To make APIs work, they need a design. The method of designing an API isn’t that different from any other user interface project, except the users are fellow developers and designers.

We’re seeing a branch of UX design emerging that deals with creating easy to use and maintain APIs. They provide documentation, sandbox tools for testing functions, example code, and simple maintenance models for getting the API integrated and running quickly and effectively.

It won’t be too long before our own organizations need to ask what could we build as an API for our own stuff? As designers, we can play a role in helping make our core competencies a integral part of
other applications.

Check out Jared's use of Twilio's cloud communication services as an example of how APIs solve problems for users. Twilio is also a service that makes total sense in the Oracle enterprise world of connecting people and information together when, where, and how it's needed.


Twilio integration with RightNow using PaaS


Twilio example integration using PaaS

Twilio is part of an ecosystem of partners that Oracle works with to provide value-add solutions for its applications. It's part of a strategy of delivering SaaS through PaaS so that applications and partners can tailor and integrate applications to increase return on investment for customers. Customers and partners can deliver even more compelling and modern user experiences to make enterprise employees more productive and satisfied with the tools they have to do their jobs, all using a common source of truth in the cloud.

The Oracle Applications User Experience outreach and communications team provides customers, partners, and enterprise applications developments with the toolkits and guidance to build such experiences in the cloud more simply and more productively than ever.

Stay tuned to the Oracle VOX (Voice of User Experience) blog and @usableapps on Twitter for news of the latest outreach in 2014!

Thursday Oct 03, 2013

Simple to Use, Simple to Design, Simple to Build at UKOUG Apps 13

Come to the UK Oracle User Group's Applications Conference 2013 in London and see Kristin Desmond and myself deliver a powerful message about Tailoring Your Applications User Experiences in the Cloud.


Simplified UI: Simple to Use, Simple to Design, Simple to Build


Simplified UI: Simple to Use, Simple to Design, Simple to Build


Featuring the Release 7 Simplified User Interface experience for our cloud applications, we'll show you how to enable your business to take charge of tailoring your own modern and compelling UI that delivers on usability without needing the IT department, how you can design a new great user experience and partner integrations using UX design patterns, and how you won't have to write a line of code to build any of this. And all in the cloud. A must for partners and customers alike!

See you there!

And there's more from the Applications User Experience team at that event too. Check out the other UX sessions too. Don't miss 'em!

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!

Sunday May 12, 2013

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.

Monday Jan 07, 2013

All the Aces, All the Faces. Oracle ADF, UX PTS Workshop: Building Fusion Usable Apps & More

December 2012 saw the completion of a pilot for a two-day workshop event aimed at enabling the Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) community of developers and partners to build great-looking usable apps using ADF and the Applications User Experience (UX) design patterns and other usability guidance.


Workshop logo

Read about the inspiration for this joint event between ADF, UX and the key role of the Platform Technology Solutions (PTS) team on Misha Vaughan’s Voice of User Experience (VoX) blog: "Building Great-Looking, Usable Apps: A two-day workshop applying Oracle’s best UX practices in ADF". Just check out the names and faces from that group of global attendees and see if you know anyone!


Misha Vaughan

Making it all happen in style: UX workshop rainmaker and communications maven, Misha Vaughan.

A train-the-trainer workshop, it brought together a broad set of key stakeholders (Oracle UX, ADF, PTS, partners) and focused on the transfer of Oracle Applications usability best practices to application developers toolkits so that they can easily build Fusion apps and solutions that satisfy users and benefit businesses.

The workshop agenda featured ADF building sessions on a couple of Fusion task flows, the background to the "Feng Shui" of UX, another engaging wireframing exercise, a very cool session on visual design, and more. An agenda informed by the best in Oracle UX science, consumer ICT trends and expectations, and leveraging the developer productivity enhancing capability of ADF and reflecting the realities of being part of the Oracle partner ecosystem providing solutions to customers now and in the future.

The feedback from the pilot attendees was overwhelmingly positive and the course content is being iterated (as all great UX is) presently to finetune it for further deliveries. Besides learning how to build some very cool and in-demand stuff with ADF, the workshop was also a super relationship-building opportunity, and a chance for Oracle and partners to showcase their latest and greatest capabilities and offerings. What a fun event too!

Best of all for the ADF community the workshop is going global in 2013. Stay tuned to the VoX blog, Usable Apps website and your usual ADF and partner enablement channels for announcements.

Monday Oct 29, 2012

Can Simple & Modern UX Be Sexy? Fusion Apps in 100% Oracle ADF Shows How

YES! I love the sheer cut-to-the-chase instant beauty and usefulness of my Clear app on iOS. Dropbox really does simplify my ICT world, if not my life. I use those apps every day: on mobile, desktop or web.


Clear App

Clear app


Dropbox Web UI

Dropbox web UI

In the enterprise apps world, you'll love what Oracle Applications User Experience team is doing with our roadmap to simple and modern user experience with Oracle Fusion Applications built with 100% Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF).


Simple and modern. A compelling UX for Fusion Apps on any device

Simple and modern. A compelling and easily personalized UX for Fusion Apps on your device of choice.

Beautiful. Simplicity, it's all part of the BYOD and COIT phenomenon that enterprises need to embrace rather than tolerate or ignore.

So, introduce yourself to the new face of Oracle Fusion Applications. More on the Voice of User Experience for Oracle Applications blog.

Tuesday Oct 02, 2012

Wireframing: A Day In the Life of UX Workshop at Oracle

The Oracle Applications User Experience team's Day in the Life (DITL) of User Experience (UX) event was run in Oracle's Redwood Shores HQ for Oracle Usability Advisory Board (OUAB) members. I was charged with putting together a wireframing session, together with Director of Financial Applications User Experience, Scott Robinson (@scottrobinson).


Example of stunning new visuals we used at the DITL wireframing event.


Example of stunning new visuals we used at the DITL wireframing event.

We put on a lively show, explaining the basics of wireframing, the concepts, what it is and isn't, considerations on wireframing tool choice, and then imparting some tips and best practices. But the real energy came when the OUAB customers and partners in the room were challenged to do some wireframing of their own.

Wireframing is about bringing your business and product use cases to life in real UX visual terms, by creating a low-fidelity drawing to iterate and agree on in advance of prototyping and coding what is to be finally built and rolled out for users. The wireframing concept is a proven basis for the making great of designs throughout history:


Leonardo Da Vinci cartoon

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) used "cartoons" on some great works. The outlines were pricked on the cartoon and red ochre or charcoal dropped through the holes as a way to transfer the design to canvas or panel. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Wireframing an application's design enables you to:


  • Obtain stakeholder buy-in and approval.
  • Enable faster iteration of different designs.
  • Determine the task flow navigation paths (in Oracle Fusion Applications navigation is linked with user roles).
  • Develop a content strategy (readability, search engine optimization (SEO) of content, and so on).
  • Lay out the pages, widgets, groups of features, and so on.
  • Apply usability heuristics early (no replacement for usability testing, but a great way to do some heavy-lifting up front).
  • Decide upstream which functional user experience design patterns to apply (out of the box solutions that expedite developer productivity).
  • Assess which Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF)-or equivalent technology components-can be used (developer productivity again enhanced downstream).

We ran a lively hands-on exercise where teams wireframed a choice of application scenarios using those time-honored design tools: pen and paper. Scott worked the floor like a pro, pointing out great use of features, best practices, innovations, and making sure that the whole concept of wireframing, the gestalt, transferred.

Winning Wireframe for an online shopping scenario

"We need more buttons!" The cry of the energized wireframer. Not quite. Part of the winning wireframe (online shopping scenario) from the Applications UX DITL event.

Great fun, great energy, and great teamwork were evident in the room. Naturally, there were prizes for the best wireframe. Well, actually, prizes were handed out to the other attendees too!

An exciting, different approach to delivery made the wireframing event one of the highlights of the day. And definitely, something we will repeat again when we get the chance! Watch out for announcements on the VoX blog

Thanks to everyone who attended, contributed, and helped organize.

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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