Saturday Dec 28, 2013

Copy is Interface Design

A superb blog in form and content, outlining why "Copy is Interface" by Daniel Burka. Every developer of user interfaces should memorize the list of best practices. If you haven't got writing skills, then find someone who has, or hire someone, if possible, and and apply any available guidelines, carefully.

Language (tone, style, and terminology) in the user interface (UI) is a critical part of an application's user experience. Getting the language right from the beginning of the development process ensures that it stays right. Of course, language must be tested iteratively, too. But, getting language wrong at the beginning, or adopting the Lorem Ipsum approach, well... the Swiss cheese model of language defects tells it all...

Swiss Cheese Model of Language Defects. Source: Des Traynor's User Interface Engineering "Microcopy" presentation.

Oracle partners and customers are working closely with the Oracle Applications User Experience team to identify the optimal toolkit to ensure that when they need to tailor the language in the user interface of their applications, they can do so simply and without the need for a major IT project or budget catastrophe. And, for enterprise applications developers who need guidance and practical resources on key UI terminology and their context so that they can build their own optimized Cloud UIs (be they desktop, simplified, or mobile) well, that kind of guidance is being discussed and readied too.

At the recent Oracle Applications User Experience communications and outreach team's Oracle Partner Advisory Board inaugural meeting in the UK, the importance of language quality in the UX was underscored. Not just in English, but in other natural languages too.

37 Signals' Getting Real gets the importance contribution that language makes to UX with the chapter called "Copywriting is Interface Design", and the Translation is UX website reminds us that UX is global and language excellence must reflect that, too.

For those interested in how language needs to be nuanced for the enterprise UX, and some of the approaches that can be taken, check out the Blogos article, "Working Out Context in the Enterprise: Localize That!".

Stay tuned for more on language as UX enablement from the outreach and communications team in 2014.

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!

Sunday Aug 18, 2013

Oracle BI Mobile App Designer and Dashboard UX Design Patterns and Guidelines

Just saw this cool video about the Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile App Designer. A great solution for mobile analytics that doesn't need an IT project to make it happen.

Oracle BI Mobile App Designer

Reminds me to tell you that the Applications User Experience team has made user experience design patterns and guidelines for Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) available for free.

Information Display Decision Table

Information Display OBIEE dashboard design pattern helps you make decisions between alternatives

Use these resources to help build great-looking dashboard UIs, making sense of data in a sharp, consistently usable way. Whether it’s visually reviewing KPIs, metrics, reports, or analyzing aggregated data and drilling down to more detail, you can enable users to turn that breadth of insight into action, and all from the same UI.

You can access the OBIEE patterns and guidelines through the For Developer section of the Usable Apps website.

Related Visualizations?

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.

Thursday Jan 12, 2012

UK OUG Birmingham December 2011: Lessons Well Learned

Better late than never, a quick reflection on my attendance at the UK Oracle User Group Conference held in the ICC in Birmingham in December 2011.

UK OUG logo. UK Oracle User Group. Serving the Oracle Community

While there I spoke to an especially privileged audience about the Oracle Fusion Applications User Assistance. There was a strong Applications User Experience (Apps-UX) presence at the event overall, with other sessions from the Apps-UX team about Fusion Apps, Middleware, and so on, and a range of usability testing events going on in the background too.


  • Remind me never to confuse ICC with NEC again. Or, at least, to rely more on Google Maps to verify a recommendation from a corporate travel system that suggests a hotel in Solihull as an option, for example.
  • Loved the UK OUG conference mobile app. Very handy for making decisions about which sessions to attend and keeping track of developments. Wonder if we could use the in-built notifications for soliciting more testers at our usability sessions next time?

    UKOUG mobile app

  • Spend some timing picking your sessions. The UK OUG folks do an incredible job providing such a range of content running in parallel. Making decisions between sessions on the spot can be a tall order, so maybe set some objectives upfront about what your want to learn from the conference, overall.

    I wanted to focus in on apps implementation and usability. In seems to me that many of our partners and customers realize the importance of usability and how it contributes to an apps implementation’s success, but we (Oracle) can optimize this opportunity by providing usability expertise, resources, and guidance that works at the system implementor level. This isn’t about turning system implementors into UX professionals with all the trappings (dem highfalutin MacBook Airs and Graces, if you like), but rather it’s about enabling their capability to treat usability as part of the business requirements and easily deliver on implementation ROI without extra resources or overheads.

    So, the languages we use when discussing user experience (or usability), the materials we provide, the relationships we build all, themselves, need to be highly usable (that is, efficient, effective, and satisfying) by implementors. The stories I heard ar UK OUG 2011 about the superb applications flexibility and functionality being offset when users are forgotten (oh, let's stop using that term and call ‘em by their real names or job titles instead) and who then complain to implementors “But, all I wanted was...” was worth the attendance alone in terms of opportunity presented.

In all, a great event, rich in offerings, way too much for me to take all in at times, but I got what I came for: insights into how usability fits into apps implementation picture and the building new relationships with members of the Oracle community while cementing others. Great to catch up with the UK OUG players and other Fusion Apps UX Advocates too.

Looking forward to my next outing (I hope) at the UK OUG Ireland conference in March 2012.

UK OUG Ireland Conference 2012

Thank you, UK OUG team.

Sunday May 08, 2011

Stand Up for Comics

Mention comics as a form of user assistance and you might think it's some kind of exercise in comedy. However, as pointed out by Rebekah Sedaca in her super article, comics are not just for laughs. Over the past couple of years there's been a huge interest in the use of comics as UA. How encouraging to see comics guru and evangelist Scott McCloud (@scottmccloud) as keynote speaker at the CMS DITA North America 2011 conference, an indicator of how seriously comics are now being taken by information development professionals.

Comics are an important form of visual communication, the possibilities of which are often underplayed by some in the UA community (usually because they mistakenly believe you need special skills to create them). Comics offer a graphically powerful and meaningful way to tell users about new features, best practices, concepts (see this great SlideShare presentation by Kevin Cheng and Jane Jao of Yahoo!), policies, and more. Alan J. Porter (@4JsGroup) offers a useful plain language definition for this form of communication: A graphic medium in which images are utilized in order to convey a sequential narrative. Importantly, the comic also conveys its message in a way that readers will recognize and relate to on a different level than other forms of help.

Increasingly, we're learning that effective UA must be affective. The UA must not only be contextual and relevant to the reader's task, representing real world examples, but it must strike a chord with them emotionally and personally. There are important returns when that happens: increased transfer of information, learning, and a great way to reinforce corporate culture, nurture enterprise and branding loyalty, and other benefits. Comics are one such form of UA.

Comics are, as Kevin Cheng says, a "universal language", a true user-centered form of communication design that can be classed as another form of "affective user assistance" as explained by Ellis Pratt (@ellispratt) of Cherryleaf in this great YouTube video about documentation as an emotional experience for users from TCUK 2010. Don Norman would be proud!

There are plenty of different examples of comics as UA that I could point out to you. You're probably familiar with the Google Chrome comic (adapted for Google by Scott McCloud). As Scott explained in his CMS DITA keynote the comic was  "amplification by simplification." Engineers at Google really wanted people to understand their work, rather than be distracted by media focus on the corporation.

Words by the Google Chrome team, comics adaptation by Scott McCloud. Image licensed under creative commons

Words by the Google Chrome team, comics adaptation by Scott McCloud. Image licensed under creative commons

Or perhaps you've seen the Oatmeal's use of comics to explain a superior UX for shopping carts? But, how about this fine manga ( 漫画) example tackling the area of RDBMS?

Copyright. The Manga Guide to Databases (Paperback) by Mana Takahashi, Shoko Azuma

Image copyright acknowledged from for The Manga Guide to Databases (Paperback) by Mana Takahashi, Shoko Azuma

Who'd a thunk? (Japanese language version is here - h/t @taksasak.) Thanks to Debra Lilley(@debralilley) for that one.

The comics approach can also offer opportunities for combinations with other forms of information. In come cases we've seen customers and partners combine them with other UA formats such as UPK demos, and I just love this er, non-Oracle example of a cartoon/video delivery.

By the way, you don't need special skills to create comics for user assistance. If you're interested in giving comics a test run yourself, check out the Visio template distributed by Rebekah Sedaca or the website. Give it a shot. Remember, comics can make you a better communicator.

Friday Apr 22, 2011

Geezers and iPhones

Shortly after I relocated to the United States I realized that the term "geezer" wasn't a reference to one of those dodgy, fast-talking, wheeler-dealer character types from "Eastenders" or "Only Fools and Horses", but to an, eh, more mature person. All sorts of labels apply to the older generations: seniors, senior citizens, old folks, the elderly, old age pensioners, and so on. From a design perspective though, whatever you call this group of users, one thing is clear: the last thing you want is a UX that screams "older user", something I was reminded of by this Irish Times article.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the smart phone space. Instead of offering older users dumbed-down and patronizing designs with over-simplified features and larger controls, it is possible to offer a graceful, highly intuitive and classy design for all. The iPhone for example is one such device that works for users of all ages simply because of a great universal design, and one whose form factors--the large display and controls--work especially well for older users (though perhaps some of the finger-based gestures not so, maybe). Compare the keyboard experience when sending an SMS message on the BlackBerry with the iPhone, for example.


The Nokia 6310 phone was another device example, cited by the article, that was very popular with older users, yet like the iPhone was never marketed specifically for that age group (mind you, an endorsement by Jeremy Clarkson of any product would be enough to put me off it for life).


These older users must not be forgotten from design perspective. They're active with technology and online too, and besides the obvious social inclusion aspects of universal design, to not consider their UX needs leaves designers missing out on a very large global audience, one with a lot of economic clout. And, of course, we're all getting older too. If we consider ageing as an accessibility issue, then remember we're all "temporarily abled" up to some point in time, so designing for age is a wise investment, one that doesn't mean compromising on features or usability in any way (in fact, designing on accessibility ground has often led to improvements for the entire community). For details of the importance of this group in Ireland as well as some general observations, see the proceedings of the Business of Ageing conference.

So, it's not just "UX for kids"  that we need to think about.

Addendum: I picked up some great Tweets on this subject from CHI 2011, triggered by Alan Newell's presentation: Older people - a commercial imperative.

@chatchavan: #chi2011 Alan Newell: older people don't want "accessiblity". They just want to use the damn system!

I must read that paper!


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


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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