Sunday Feb 16, 2014

It's Not How You Wink, It's How You Work

What might wearable technology user experience guidance look like? Well, we're sharpening up the guidelines and trying them out them out at wearables design jams, internally to Oracle for now.

The first Oracle UX design jam was held in January. This was a pilot event to try out some ideas for delivering wearables design enablement to a wider audience. It was a very successful event that showed off our own innovations and harnessed the smarts of a diverse audience drawn from across Oracle, worldwide.

Wearables design jam idea
Creative wearables design for enterprise problem. Design jam teams had to a) solve an enterprise problem with a wearables solution, and b) do it by integrating the device with Oracle technology.

Ultan demonstrating Necomimi Brainwave Ears Cat Ears
Ultan demonstrating Necomimi Brainwave Cat Ears. A must-have for all wearables evangelists.

Customers and partners stay tuned. Follow along on the VOX blog and the Usable Apps website for news of outreach events. Follow along with @usableapps on Twitter too.

Thursday Nov 21, 2013

Dress Code 2.0: Wearables

It used to be that enterprises had this thing called a dress code to "inform" employees about what they could and couldn't wear in work. That's all changed these days, largely.

But now, enterprises need to react to what technology their employees will wear when working. Enterprises are about to take advantage of how the latest trend in technology, "wearables", will transform work and make workers smarter and enable them to complete their tasks more easily.

The term "wearables" itself, for me, is too broad. We also have the Quantified Self arrivistes, and talk of "little data" or "the personal API" to contend with, so I'd prefer to think of wearables, in the enterprise context, as another optimized UI, part of an overall user experience.

Wearable technology, this way, might be best analyzed as being for a certain set of users to do certain tasks using certain devices. Using cloud-based data as the source of truth, all can be exchanged between other users and devices, meeting business objectives by solving business problems in an efficient, effective, and satisfying way (that's called "usability", folks).

We are past the fad stage, and real business cases are being identified (as this Wall Street Journal article, "Wearable Gadgets Transform How Companies Do Business" points out). Putting together the opportunities for integration of applications at the consumer level and those business services appearing, we can see an emergent technology and user experience roadmap for workers to be even more productive.

This is a fascinating area, and ironically IMO, again it seems that the enterprise offers more potential for realistic value-adds and faster adoption for wearables than the personal space does. Admittedly, it can be as hard to separate personal and work technologies from each other these days as it is to separate your work clothes from leisure wear, but does that really matter?

Talk of wearables is still dominated by a narrow range of devices, namely Google Glass and various smart watches, and most usage we see and hear about is of a healthcare, sporting, fitness, or just exploratory and fun nature.

However, thinking about wearables from a problem-solving perspective and taking in disparate technologies and use cases from the personal, enterprise, startup and open-source world is a more fruitful exploration, I think. And, we need to think beyond glasses and watches too, and think about what services, APIs, sensors, OpenCV (Open Source Computer Vision), voice, and more, can offer with integration and interconnectivity in the cloud.

The Oracle Applications User Experience team is up on the wearables technology and enterprise potential, so stay tuned. We've already shown off some early use cases in the CRM space for Google Glass, but there is a lot more coming.

We will bring a whole new dimension to the notion of "dress code" in work. Your participation and insight as Oracle customers and partners, and as users of our applications, has an open invitation, as always, to inform our innovations.

Exciting times.

Read more about wearables and the Applications User Experience team on Misha Vaughan's (@mishavaughan) VOX Blog.

Sunday May 13, 2012

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.


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. Senior Director, Oracle Applications User Experience, Oracle EMEA. Twitter: @ultan

See my other Oracle blog on 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 a lot more.


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