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!

Wednesday Mar 27, 2013

Lightweight Simplicity Gets You Hooked: Fishing and Fusion

I’m a fishing nut. Started in the mid-70s using very light tackle, I immediately caught lots of fish from the rocks at the end of my street in Dublin. I’ve been hooked ever since, and fished all over the world, and bought far more angling equipment than I needed or used (making me a “tackle tart”, as we call it). I loved that little rod, 5 foot long, fiber glass them days, with a cork handle. I still have it.

So, I’m delighted to see LRF (or Light Rock Fishing) emerge as a genre in its own right in the last few years. Influenced by fishing from kayaks, the sporting and environmental values of catch and release policies, U.S. bassing, and the technology and aesthetics of Japanese and French spinning and baitcasting rod design, LRF with its shorter, ultra lightweight rods (carbon these days), braided lines, funky colorful lures, and the marvels of small-scale precision reel engineering, has really taken off in Europe. Some of the Japanese LRF rods in particular, are really beautiful, total Ninja stuff. LRF gives you one hell of a bigger kick out of catching the same species fish that you did before. But the kit is more deadly, yet powerful too. Some huge fish have been landed on LRF gear.

Fishing from the rocks at Hook Head, Ireland

Dawn LRFing it at Hook Head, County Wexford, Ireland. (photo: Ultan O'Broin)

Like with LRF, there’s an emotional pull in just wanting to use great and simple tools and technology that can be hard to explain. We’re inspired by something beyond functionality that aligns with positive feelings. How many of us, of a certain age, feel that we did our best writing on the Apple Mac Plus or 512K in college, for example? We come across outstanding examples of really great user experiences in the most unlikely of places too. A recent encounter with Emirates ICE inflight entertainment system had me so engaged that I interrupted the movies a few times to explore the system itself a bit more!

ICE Inflight system UI

ICE Inflight system UI on the Dubai-Dublin Emirates flight. (photo: Ultan O'Broin)

For me, this pull is all about smart design aimed at solving different levels of needs. It lets you meet the immediate little challenge by focusing on the essence of what you really need to do intuitively and intelligently, sure. But it’s also the invitation to do more, to a world of discoverability, to explore how you can make something really work for you in a satisfying, yet surprising way. You can push it, and yourself. And yet, you know that there is some awesome physics and thought behind the design that will let you accomplish out of the ordinary stuff if you need to.

That FUSE is the new face of Oracle Fusion Applications fits into this paradigm perfectly. Beautiful design, intuitive, intelligent, the lightweight FUSE UI is optimized for navigation and action, and guess what? It's also integrated with other optimized Fusion Applications experiences too, pivoting through the cloud. So when the whale of a task comes along there’s the power of the Fusion desktop UI version at hand to land that biggie, for example.

The new face of Fusion Applications on MacBook Air

The new face of Oracle Fusion Applications on Apple MacBook Air.

I’m all LRF now. It's a return to simple basics, to the excitement and discovery of being a kid fishing again. I’m done with the swinging of an 8oz weight off the end of a 13-foot beach casting rod so that it lands 150 yards away, though I’ll keep the big gun rods stored safely for when the fishing situation suits. I’m all FUSE now too, but I know another optimized experience is at my fingertips too should continuing my work need it.

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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