Monday Aug 27, 2012

InSync12 and Australia Visits: UX is Global, Regional, Everywhere!

I attended the Australian Oracle User Group (AUSOUG) and Quest International User Group's InSync12 event in Melbourne, Australia: the user group conference for Oracle products in the ANZ region. I demoed Oracle Fusion Applications and then presented how Oracle crafted the world class Fusion Apps user experience (UX). I explained about the Oracle user experience design pattern strategy of uptake for all apps, not just Fusion, and what our UX pattern externalization strategy means for customers, partners, and ADF developers.

A great conference, lots of energy, the InSync12 highlights for me were Oracle's Senior Vice President Cliff Godwin’s fast-moving Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) roadshow with the killer Oracle Endeca user experience uptake, and Oracle ADF product outreachmeister Chris Muir’s (@chriscmuir) session on Oracle ADF Mobile solution and his hands-on mobile app development showing how existing ADF/JDev skills can build a secure, code once-deploy-to-many-device hybrid app solution in minutes.

Cliff Godwin shows off the Endeca integration with EBS

Cliff Godwin shows off the Oracle Endeca integration with Oracle E-Business Suite.

Chris Muir talked the talk and then walked the walked with ADF Mobile

Chris Muir talked the talk and then walked the walked with Oracle ADF Mobile.

Applications UX was mixing it up with the crowd at InSync12 too, showing off cool mobile UX solutions, using iPads to gather feedback on future UX designs and innovations from conference attendees, and engaging with EBS, JD Edwards, and PeopleSoft apps customers and partners. User conferences such as InSync12 are an important part of our Oracle Applications UX user-centered design process, giving real apps users the opportunity to make real inputs and a way for us to watch and to listen to their needs and wants and get views on current and emerging UX too.

While in Melbourne, I also visited impressive Oracle partner, Callista for a major ADF and UX pow-wow, and was the er, star of a very proactive event hosted by another partner Park Lane Information Technology (coordinated by Bambi Price (@bambiprice) of ODTUG) where I explained what UX is about, and how partner and customers can engage, participate and deploy that Applications UX scientific insight to advantage for their entire business.

I also paired up with Oracle Australia in Sydney to visit key customers while there, and back at Oracle in Melbourne I spoke with sales consultants and account managers about regional opportunities and UX strategy, and came away with an understanding of what makes the Oracle market tick in Australia.

Mobile worker solution development and user experience is hot news in Australia, and this was a great opportunity to team up with Chris Muir and show how the alignment of the twin stars of UX design patterns and ADF technology enables developers to make great-looking, usable apps that really sparkle. Our UX design patterns--or functional (UI) patterns, to use the developer world language--means that developers now have not only a great tool set to build apps on Oracle ADF/FMW but proven, tested usability solutions to solve common problems they can apply in the IDE too.

In all, a whirlwind UX visit, packed with events and delivery opportunities, and all too short a time in the wonderful city of Melbourne. I need to get back there soon! For those who need a reminder, there's a website explaining how to get involved with, and participate in, Applications User Experience (including the Oracle Usability Advisory Board) events and programs.

Thank you to AUSOUG, Quest, InSync, Callista, Park Lane IT, everyone at Oracle Australia, Chris Muir, and all the other people who came together to make this a productive visit.

Stay tuned for more UX developments and engagements in the region on the Oracle VoX blog and Usable Apps website too!

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 fusionhelp.oracle.com 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 slideshare.net 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.

Monday May 28, 2012

From Inside the Fishbowl: UX Provocation, Innovation, and Games

I previously pointed out risks of conflating gamification and gaming per se. That’s not to dismiss using gaming technology to perform business tasks, of course. Why shouldn’t I do my Oracle expenses on my seven year-old’s Nintendo 3DS if it’s handy when we’re traveling together, for example? That the expenses process itself would also be gamified resonates with the platform too.

Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo 3DS and business applications: From Browser to Bowser? Image referenced from Nintendo.com site. All rights acknowleged.

I met the brilliant Dr. Edward de Bono a few years ago. He’s the genius behind Lateral Thinking and the technique of ‘PO’ (or Provocative Operation). De Bono challenged Shell Oil to drill for oil horizontally instead of vertically, and now everyone drills that way. He’s been directly and indirectly responsible for lots of other high business values ideas becoming real, all based on challenging us to think more creatively when solving problems.

Enterprise applications user experience needs more genius provocateurs too. One such guy is John Sim (@JRSim_UIX), UK-based consultant for Oracle Gold Partner Fishbowl Solutions. After meeting John at the Oracle offices in London recently, I came away thinking hard about what gaming offers us. I was totally blown away by John’s technical wizardry, demonstrated with WebCenter and other Oracle technology, but his stuff with the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Kinect (also featured at Collaborate 12) really opened up my mind to a whole range of possible business use cases.

Why not use game controllers to move people around the Oracle Fusion Applications Human Capital Management person portrait gallery and take actions right away?

Person Gallery Portrait, part of the user experience for Fusion HCM Applications.

Oracle Fusion Applications HCM Person Portrait Gallery

Or why not use the Xbox 360 and Kinect to interact with a portal? How about using game controllers and gestures to manage your supply chain, orchestrate orders, getting field sales teams onto guerilla market leads, do some easy visual manipulation of analytics or model financial scenarios in advance? Maybe combine insight at work and keep fit at the same time, all in front of your TV. A large game screen could be the ideal way to record and manage resources and feedback, time management, progress or other activities in an open office environment such as a call center. Gesture controls, people, are just another way to allow interaction with apps.


Leap Motion Leap gesture-based computer interaction system.

Don’t get blind-sided by a narrow definition of devices. Under pressure from the BYOD, open source devices, cheap, powerful processors and design platforms, and the gaming generation, within 3-5 years what we consider to be a device for running our apps will even require UX thought about how the wearable devices color coordinates with the rest of the user’s ensemble and mood. ADF skinning never had it so good! Another reason why events like Maker Faire are important to Oracle. Anyone for printing their own parts as a solution to service requests in the field using 3D Printers?


Printrbot: Your First 3D Printer

Lots to think about.

You can read more about John’s insights on the Fishbowl Solutions C4blog.

Provoked enough? Find the comments.

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.

Monday Apr 23, 2012

Customizing FND Message Numbers in Oracle Fusion Applications: Manage Messages UI and UX Stakeholders

I am often asked about removing the numbers that are shown with error messages in Oracle Fusion Applications. In fact, this can be done easily using the Manage Messages user interface (UI) Message Number field. A Manage Messages task flow is integrated into the Oracle Fusion Functional Setup Manager, and access to this is documented in the Oracle Fusion Applications Developer's Guide 11g.

Manage Messages UI in Oracle Fusion Applications

Manage Messages UI in Oracle Fusion Applications

But before you do, let’s explore what these numbers are for, and if and when you might want to remove then, and what the process should be.

Message Numbers Explained

These message numbers are assigned to error messages and warning messages stored in the FND messages table. Each product has a message number range assigned and the number itself takes the format of a product short code followed by a unique number. For example:

The message number in Oracle Fusion Applications FND messages is shown after the message

Message number in Oracle Fusion Applications FND message shown after the message text

For customer extensions too, a reserved number range for FND messages is provided: 10,000,000 to 10,999,999.

Unlike the Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) FND messages, these numbers appear after the summary message and not before. There is no Oracle Fusion Applications user preference to turn such numbers on or off or to hide or disclose them when a message is shown. They’re either there or they’re not. The numbers can also be on FND messages used for warnings at times.

Oracle Fusion Applications also uses ADF messages stored in resource bundles, and not just the FND messages ones. The ADF error messages are usually provided for native validation (such as for required fields, validators and converters) or navigation between ADF components. These types of messages do not have the numbers. Neither do any of the so-called common FND messages.

The Oracle Fusion Applications Developer's Guide 11g is your friend for understanding the message types.

How Are FND Message Numbers Used?


The numbers are used as reference indicators for Oracle Support to look up knowledge base information about reported errors or incidents. Because the message numbers are the same regardless of the language translation means that Oracle Support teams do not actually need to have a translation of the message text itself and can cross-reference resolutions from English if necessary.

The numbers are also used by AppsLogger when an incident is created and are included in the text output for logs.

Generally, Applications User Experience (UX) research shows that only internal help desk personnel or other enterprise support representatives want to report issues or message numbers to Oracle Support. Help desk operators do not like apps end users searching for their own solutions externally (apps user profiles are different to DB admins who might Google ORA numbers, for example). Instead, the help desk prefers their users to report issues to the help desk directly (or in the case of app failure by way of an implicit or explictly-raised incident). Frankly, even when end users do look up these numbers on the Internet (assuming they can), there is little they can do with the information anyway.

All said, you may find that some end users are irritated by these numbers and can consider removing the numbers on user experience (UX) grounds.

Which Messages Numbers Could Be Removed?


When might you want to remove the FND message numbers? In my UX opinion, the following types of FND messages are worth considering for customization in this regard:

  • Messages for simple client-side, individual ADF component validations.
  • Messages used for navigation or other UI rules.
  • Warning messages with questions that require confirmation by users before proceeding.
  • Common messages created in a product area that might or might not raise an incident.

I recommend that you never remove a number from an error message, warning or information message that is used for an application failure, or for an incident or log creation (AppsLogger won’t work unless there is a unique number there). Complex business rule messages, at EO level, for example, are also best left with message numbers.

You can use these guidelines when creating new FND messages too. If the message number is not in the FND message table, the message will still display. The number does not have any impact on the rendering.

Removing Numbers: Who Needs To Be Involved?


Successful implementations and customizations require the engagement of end users but also other stakeholders in a requirements and change management process to agree what the user experience will be.

So, if you are considering removing these message numbers, then you need to understand the context of use and identify appropriate stakeholders. These stakeholders may be internal and external to your organization. I suggest the following stakeholders for deciding about message numbers: end users, development teams or consultants who know about incidents and validation, internal help desks, internal training groups, Oracle Support, or other support representatives that you use.

After that, then you can make decisions about numbers changes. Do not just remove the message numbers without stakeholders, or without gathering your use case, assessing the real UX impact of their presence (users just don’t like ‘em or are they actually consuming time dealing with complaints about them and adding no task completion value?), and determining which numbers are really important to your help desk, support representatives and also to Oracle Support.

By the way, FND messages are seed data so changes are patch and upgrade survivable just like in Oracle EBS.

Questions or UX advice needed on any of this? Find them comments.

Sunday Mar 11, 2012

Oracle UKOUG Ireland Conference 2012: Applications User Experience In The House

I will be attending the UKOUG Ireland 2012 Conference in Dublin in March 2012. I have to say the organizers have put together a superb line up which you can read about here (PDF).

UK Oracle User Group Ireland conference details. All rights acknowledged on image.

Officially, I will be speaking twice. Firstly, about the new standard in enterprise applications user experience: Oracle Fusion Applications. I will explain how scientific research and design expertise artfully enables users to transform insight into action. I believe that I may be joined by a "special guest" in this too! So, come along, as I will also be showing the Fusion Apps themselves.

Later, I will be presenting with Richard Bingham (@richardbingham) about how the Fusion Apps user assistance and support management tools work together to create a produce experience ecosystem to keep end users, help desk, support and senior management delighted with your investment.

I will also be available to answer any questions you might have about the Applications-UX team's work, how you can contribute, and to explain more about our building blocks of the user experience in Fusion Apps: design patterns.

Looking forward to catching up with the usual suspects--and some new ones--too!

Sunday Sep 19, 2010

Oracle Apps-UX at UA Europe 2010

The Applications User Experience User Assistance team (well, myself, Laurie Pattison, and Erika Webb anyway!) attended the "UA Europe 2010":http://www.uaconference.eu/ conference in Stockholm.

In addition to sessions on DITA-based writing patterns  and enterprise mobile apps UA research and design, we held a lunchtime discussion on the iPad and user assistance, and took time to talk at length with author Anne Gentle and exchange views with other lots of other UA and information strategy professionals.

I am really happy with the thought leadership that Apps-UX displayed in the UA space. It's such a great group to work in! Watch out for a forthcoming interview with Anne Gentle on the usableapps website. Here's to the next conference!

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.

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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