Saturday May 26, 2012

Oracle Applications UX Gamification Worldwide All Hands Day

The Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) group recently hosted the #gamifyOracle Oracle Applications Gamification Worldwide User Experience Design Jam at the Oracle HQ in Redwood Shores, California. This was a big, fun-filled innovation day for all Applications UX members, other invited Oracle contributors (from Oracle's Education and Research Industry Business Unit, Oracle Product Support, Oracle Technology Network, and so on) and external guests from our Fusion User Experience Advocates (FXA) program. And this firestarter (as I was the one inspired to provoke him into attending through @gamifyOracle, I take responsibility for him entering into the spirit of things in such style).

Hello World developer expertise badge used during event

Would be af:HelloWorld ADF component developer expertise badge used during the gamification process. Teams obtained this badge when they had sufficient technical nous in evidence at the jam.

The event itself started with introduction to gamification--nuanced and positioned for the world of work--and then a design jam. Teams (named after various well-know game characters) of participants with mixed backgrounds and expertise were each given a business flow or task and challenged to gamify it to maximize user engagement, participation, and productivity. Tasks from the CRM, Financials, HCM, Projects and Portfolio Management, and SCM worlds of work in the office, and on the go, received the best of the insight and science treatment that Applications UX brings to Oracle, and the results were stunning. Design deliverables were UX designs (wireframes and prototypes).

The process itself was gamified using an Applications UX-developed web app made up of a team management dashboard, a leaderboard, an information board, and a UI used by event administrators to monitor and reward each team's performance (see, even the gamification is gamified in Oracle).

Admins (I was one) scored teams on their use of game principles and game components throughout the day, resulting in earned points and badges, while extra kudos could be gained by teams themselves by checking in, going the extra mile, showing out of the box style thinking, and bringing their expertise to life in their design.

Teams hard at work during the #gamifyOracle design jam.

Teams hard at work during the #gamifyOracle design jam. Photograph: Martin Taylor (@theothermartin).

A fun but productive day, as all entered into the spirit, as I went around I was impressed by the earnest nature of the UX design efforts, the sparkling output, and the eagerness of teams to compete with each other. The day was punctuated by a cool set of videos with thumping sound tracks, featuring Oracle folks talking about the role of gamification in the enterprise, and what gamification is and isn’t.

Hammering home the point about the market relevance of gamification, the final stage of the team was a Dragons Den-type scenario where each team demonstrated their concept to the collective gathering who then played the role of crowdsourced venture capitalists, using another Applications UX-developed web app to invest virtual currency (did you see what we just did there?) in each design.

Showing off gamified enterprise app flow to the ersatz venture capitalists present

Showing off a gamified enterprise app flow to the ersatz venture capitalists present. Photograph: Ultan O’Broin.

The winning team? An inspired effort from the Bowser team. And of course, it had an external member, Oracle ACE Director Edward Roske (@eroske), who had a double celebration as it was also his birthday. Proves the point about the FXA program bringing something fresh to our table (kudos to Misha Vaughan for invitations): a fresh energy, a fresh set of ideas, and a fresh perspective.

Team Bowser was the winner, and was awarded this inexpensive yet tasteful trophy.

Team Bowser was the winner, and was awarded this inexpensive yet tasteful trophy. Photograph: Edward Roske (@eroske).

In all, a great way to learn about gamification, build team spirit, and create an innovative, contemporary user experience in a very agile way. Don’t be surprised if some of these eventually come to life on your desktop or mobile device soon.

Badges to Laurie Pattison (@lsptahoe), Erika Webb (@erikanollwebb), and everyone who organized the event, and especially to the attendees, travelling from all over Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America to gamify Oracle applications.

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!

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 Amazon.de shopping cart before signing in

Searching for and adding items to Amazon shopping cart before signing in.

Bahn.de 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 Amazon.de, 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

Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development--Made Simple: Review and Opportunity

The holidays are a great time to catch up on required reading. I’ve just finished reading Sten Vesterli’s (@stenvesterli) book Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development--Made Simple.

Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development--Made Simple

This is a super book about the Oracle Application Developer Framework (ADF) using with the (recommended) Oracle JDeveloper IDE, communicated in plain language and easy-to-read style. Suitable for novice and experts with web development or Oracle Forms background, the book is written very much from the “let’s see great software running now” perspective.

All the essentials are there: the concepts behind ADF, the nuts and bolts of the components, and great how-to technical execution stuff. This is blended with valuable process insights and best practices right across the application development lifecycle, such as a proof of concept phase, planning, estimating effort, assembling a team, testing, deployment, and so on. Sten also includes information on how Oracle used ADF to create Oracle Fusion Applications. Take a look inside the book.

Of special note is a chapter on internationalization (i18n) and localization (L10n), something I am always relieved--if not delighted--to see, given my technology globalization interests. The market for Oracle applications is global and ADF has superb baked-in i18n and L10n capabilities: BiDi-enabled components using Start and End properties (instead of left and right), externalized text in resource bundles, hard-coding checks, XLIFF support, and so on.

Sten also brings usability into the application development process, with information on the importance of design (see the YouTube video below about the ADF Faces Rich Client Visio stencils provided by Oracle) and adding usability expertise to the team. This is a critical aspect to the success of any developed product or implementation (ADF-based, or otherwise). We (Oracle, working with partners and customers) continually up the Oracle apps community’s level of usability awareness and know-how that leads to successful outcomes for system implementors and consulting teams. We also curate customer and partner insights and experiences for the benefit of others too, notably through the Oracle Usability Advisory Board (OUAB).



UX Direct

Getting the benefits of apps usability to developers and implementors is what our UX Direct consulting service (featured at the October 2011 OUAB meeting) is about.

UX Direct

UX Direct take the superb out of the box functionality and flexibility offered by Oracle’s apps, matches it with Oracle UX expertise, and enables customers to accelerate their apps usage to the next level of user performance. You really don’t need special resources or teams to do it (but if you have them it’ll work too!), just UX Direct’s service and resources explaining usability benefits to implementors, showing how to find end users, gather their requirements and keep them engaged throughout the implementation process, what usability best practices and design resources to use, how to measure the results, and demonstrate ROI.

Using the UX Direct service's know-how and examples about Oracle apps tailoring opportunities (personalization, customization, extensibility, localization, and so on) delivers benefits of improved adoption rates, increased user productivity, lower training and support demands, and the satisfaction of knowing employees end their day happy with the app.

Develop Those Usable Apps Now

Watch out for more about the UX Direct service offerings from Oracle soon. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to read Sten’s book and take your apps to the next level of usability by using his work along with the Oracle ADF Rich Client User Interface Guidelines.

Incidentally, some folks asked me where the Browser Look and Feel (BLAF) guidelines used with the Oracle Applications Framework (OAF) for EBS are? They’re available on OTN here.

And, if you’re seriously interested in enterprise application development, then ask to join the ADF Enterprise Methodology Group (EMG) (@adf_emg) at http://groups.google.com/group/adf-methodology.

Find the comments if you’ve anything to share.

Wednesday Nov 16, 2011

Where Have All the Ugly Forms Gone? Users and ADF Took Care Of It

Sometimes I hear that our application demos are a bit too "cutsey" and that we never talk about with any user roles that have lots of data entry as a requirement. Some (no names) consider those old clunker forms, with the myriad rows of fields, to be super-productive for data clerks.

We do have such roles covered in Oracle Fusion Applications for sure. But consider what is really the issue here: productivity. Check out how the Oracle Fusion Financials Applications User Experience team went about designing for productivity when receiving and entering invoice data, for example. See how Fusion Financials caters so well for input and control of data? Central to all this is knowing the users and how they work: what tasks do they need to perform, and when. Read more about Fusion Financials productivity in the white paper, Get It Done Fast, Get It Done Right: The Oracle Fusion Financials User Experience.

Now and then, I see forms that weren't designed for end user activity at all. Instead, they were designed by developers or by the IT department around the database schema. Forms with literally dozens of fields on the same page, sometimes. Forms that give the impression there was only task involved, when there may have been several. At times, completing one of these huge forms accurately became so tedious that, under pressure, it made more sense for the user to complete it quickly as possible and then let somebody else check it for accuracy and fill in the gaps from data emailed along in spreadsheet form. Data accuracy is critical in our business. Not good. Not efficient. Not productive.

So here are a few basics on forms design for data entry-type user roles. A great place for developers to start exploring what is possible with forms layout is the Rich Client User Interface (RCUI) guidance on Form Layout, using ADF components.

JDeveloper Form Design View


User-Centered Forms Design Considerations


The starting point--something you must always keep in mind with your own design--is design for the end user. Find a representative end user, and keep that user engaged throughout the design, deployment, and test process. Consider these points in user testing those forms:


  • Are there automated or technical solutions to entering the data that avoid manual input in the first place? For example, imports, uploads, OCR, whatever. Some day we will be able to tell Siri to do it, but leave that for now.
  • Design your form to reflect the task involved (i.e., the business process) and not the database schema.
  • On the form, group like fields together, logically.
  • Eliminate duplicate data entry or prepopulate from previous data entry.
  • Allow users to complete fields in the order they wish (i.e., no interdependency).
  • Allow for tabbing between fields (keyboard is faster than mouse), so know how the browser supports this (see that RCUX guideline).
  • Allow for final validation at the page level not at field-level entry. Way better for heads-down users. For example, ADF messages allow you to see a list of all validation errors on a page on a final submit or navigation action and to easily navigate to the point of error.
  • Better still, be error tolerant. Allow users to enter data in formats they comfortable with. Bind any relevant user preference setting to the input format allowed (for example, the locale date format). Explore what data entry conversion can do for you automatically too (see the ADF converter demos, convenience patterns can also be written).
  • Only ask for data input when it's needed. Get rid of, or hide optional fields.
  • Cut down on the number of mandatory fields, and mark them clearly (use a *).
  • Clearly label the fields in plain language.

I am sure you may have a few more tips on forms design for data entry users. Remember the user before finding the comments.

Tuesday Nov 08, 2011

Fusion Applications UX at Danish Oracle User Group

3 November 2011: Danish Oracle User Group (DOUG) event at Oracle Danmark's Ballerup offices. Explained the Applications User Experience (UX) team’s user research, design and testing that have brought to life a new standard in enterprise apps user experience. Used the Fusion User Experience Advocates (FXA) demo, and talked through the action shown.

Oracle Fusion Applications user interface

Very positive reaction from an engaged audience, perceptive questions asked, and enthusiastic feedback about the Fusion Apps killer decision-making ease, streamlined navigation, collaboration capability, embedded intelligence, state of the art visualizations, extensibility capability and deployment options. Great anticipation by the DOUG folks to see more of the product, too.

Ultan O'Broin talking at DOUG about the New Standard in User Experience: Fusion Applications

Picture: Rikke Christiansen

DOUG and other Nordic events are on our radar now, so looking for more opportunities to show and tell the Fusion Apps UX story and get more user feedback and participation going in EMEA and other regions.

First time in Denmark. Loved the place and moved around with ease, again with Google Maps on the iPhone. Public transport and connectivity to die for, multilingual society, ECCO, LEGO, Jakob Nielsen, an eye for cutting edge design (so Fusion Apps fits in well there), SAS SMS and QR code checkin for flights; it's all happening there. I'll be back.

Google Maps route to Ballerup

Thank you DOUG and Oracle Danmark.

Don't forget to check out the great set of white papers about the Oracle Fusion Applications UX, now available.

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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