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.

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.

Friday Dec 14, 2012

How to Build Your Own Siri App In a Browser

This post from Applications User Experience team co-worker Mark Vilrokx (@mvilrokx) about building your own Siri-style voice app in a browser using Rails, Chrome, and WolframAlpha is so just good you've now got it thrice!

Input field with microphone icon

I love these kind of How To posts. They not only show off innovation but inspire others to try it out too. Love the sharing of the code snippets too. Hat tip to Jake at the AppsLab (and now on board with the Applications UX team too) for picking up the original All Things Rails blog post.

Oracle Voice and Nuance demo on the Oracle Applications User Experience Usable Apps YouTube channel.

Mark recently presented on Oracle Voice at the Oracle Usability Advisory Board on Oracle Voice and Oracle Fusion Applications and opened customers and partners eyes to how this technology can work for their users in the workplace and what's coming down the line!

Great job, Mark.

Friday Nov 02, 2012

Feeling Old? Before Middleware, Gamification, and MacBook Airs

Think we're done with green screens in the enterprise apps world?

Fusion User Experience Advocate Debra Lilley (@debralilley) drew my attention to this super retro iPad terminal emulator app being used by a colleague to connect to JDE. Yes, before Middleware, this is how you did it. Surely the ultimate in hipster retro coexistence? Mind you, I've had to explain to lots of people I showed this to just what Telnet and IBM AS/400 are (or were).

TN5250 Telnet iPad App

MochaSoft TN5250 Terminal Emulator iPad App

This OG way of connecting to apps is a timely reminder not to forget all those legacy apps out there and the UX aspect to adoption and change. If a solution already works well and there's an emotional attachment to it, then the path to upgrade needs to be very clear and have valuable and demonstrable ROI for users and decision makers, a path that spans emotion and business benefits. On a pure usability front, that old school charm of the character-based green glow look 'n' feel could be easily done as a skin, personalizing an application for the user so that they feel comfortable with it. Fun too particularly in the mobile and BYOD space!

In fact, there is a thriving retro apps market out there as illustrated by this spiffy lunar lander app (hat tip: John Cartan), part of a whole set of Atari's greatest hits available for iOS.

Lunar Lander App

Lunar Lander App

And of course, there's the iOS version of Pong.

Check out this retro Apple Mac SE/30 too. I actually remember using one of these. I have an Apple Mac Plus somewhere in my parents' house. I tried it out recently, and it actually booted, although all it was good for was playing the onboard games.

Looking at all these olde worlde things makes me feel very old, but kinda warm inside too. The latter is a key part of today's applications user experience too.

Monday Jul 16, 2012

Apps Consumer Experience & Contextual Actions Guideline

Here's one of our Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience Advocates Sten Vesterli (@stevesterli) talking with our own Kathy Miedema about how consumer expectations about the look and usability of modern, attractive websites are driving applications user experience (UX) in the enterprise and how Oracle Fusion Applications delivers!

Great video, also offering some insights into what the Oracle Application Development Framework af:table faces component and persistence change framework means for user personalization too. The building blocks of our UX are the Oracle Fusion Applications patterns and guidelines, now available for developers to take our usability even further and to give their user interfaces a totally awesome consumer makeover.

I'd like to highlight one of our guidelines that you really do need to know about for that modern UX: The Contextual Actions guideline.

Contextual Actions guideline explains how to elegantly streamline users access to information without navigating away from tasks

Contextual actions are a supercool and fast way for you to let users have more information right there in the user interface. Users hate navigating away for this kind of stuff as its a total productivity killer. Now, the contextual action dialog box gives users easy access to a whole bunch of objects and actions right away while they stay engaged with, and completing, the immediate task.

Read more about how Oracle Fusion Applications CRM uses this contextual action feature, and it's used throughout the applications suite too. There are contextual actions dialog boxes, like the one I've shown for Person, for 10 other business objects in Fusion Apps, including Organization, Customer Account, Item, Project, and so on.

And, don't forget we have even more videos about Oracle Applications User Experience on the Usable Apps YouTube channel 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 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 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 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.


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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