Sunday Oct 21, 2012

Fun with Facets: Hipmunk Usable UI Makes Me Smile

Just love the Hipmunk (for Business) UI facets for discovering information. You can filter by Agony, Spite, or Vice!

Agony and Spite facets on Hipmunk.com

Agony and Spite facets on Hipmunk.com

Vice facet on Hipmunk for Mobile

Vice facet on Hipmunk for Mobile

Seems like a reasonable balance given that all you can do with business travel sometimes is just laugh about it!

I first came to hipmunk.com through a paper presented by Oracle Fusion User Experience Advocate (or FXA) Sten Vesterli (@stenvesterli) at an Oracle Usability Advisory Board meeting in Geneva earlier in 2012. Nice! And there are lots of other powerful and edgy UX features in the solution too (Gmail calendar integration, contextual actions dialog box, and so on). I'll be using Hipmunk as an example of great UX too, shortly.

If you want to mention the funky side of UIs or anything referenced by me, then acknowledge the source.

Tuesday Oct 02, 2012

Wireframing: A Day In the Life of UX Workshop at Oracle

The Oracle Applications User Experience team's Day in the Life (DITL) of User Experience (UX) event was run in Oracle's Redwood Shores HQ for Oracle Usability Advisory Board (OUAB) members. I was charged with putting together a wireframing session, together with Director of Financial Applications User Experience, Scott Robinson (@scottrobinson).


Example of stunning new visuals we used at the DITL wireframing event.


Example of stunning new visuals we used at the DITL wireframing event.

We put on a lively show, explaining the basics of wireframing, the concepts, what it is and isn't, considerations on wireframing tool choice, and then imparting some tips and best practices. But the real energy came when the OUAB customers and partners in the room were challenged to do some wireframing of their own.

Wireframing is about bringing your business and product use cases to life in real UX visual terms, by creating a low-fidelity drawing to iterate and agree on in advance of prototyping and coding what is to be finally built and rolled out for users. The wireframing concept is a proven basis for the making great of designs throughout history:


Leonardo Da Vinci cartoon

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) used "cartoons" on some great works. The outlines were pricked on the cartoon and red ochre or charcoal dropped through the holes as a way to transfer the design to canvas or panel. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Wireframing an application's design enables you to:


  • Obtain stakeholder buy-in and approval.
  • Enable faster iteration of different designs.
  • Determine the task flow navigation paths (in Oracle Fusion Applications navigation is linked with user roles).
  • Develop a content strategy (readability, search engine optimization (SEO) of content, and so on).
  • Lay out the pages, widgets, groups of features, and so on.
  • Apply usability heuristics early (no replacement for usability testing, but a great way to do some heavy-lifting up front).
  • Decide upstream which functional user experience design patterns to apply (out of the box solutions that expedite developer productivity).
  • Assess which Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF)-or equivalent technology components-can be used (developer productivity again enhanced downstream).

We ran a lively hands-on exercise where teams wireframed a choice of application scenarios using those time-honored design tools: pen and paper. Scott worked the floor like a pro, pointing out great use of features, best practices, innovations, and making sure that the whole concept of wireframing, the gestalt, transferred.

Winning Wireframe for an online shopping scenario

"We need more buttons!" The cry of the energized wireframer. Not quite. Part of the winning wireframe (online shopping scenario) from the Applications UX DITL event.

Great fun, great energy, and great teamwork were evident in the room. Naturally, there were prizes for the best wireframe. Well, actually, prizes were handed out to the other attendees too!

An exciting, different approach to delivery made the wireframing event one of the highlights of the day. And definitely, something we will repeat again when we get the chance! Watch out for announcements on the VoX blog

Thanks to everyone who attended, contributed, and helped organize.

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!

Friday Jun 22, 2012

Top Fusion Apps User Experience Functional UI Patterns & Guidelines Every Apps Dev Should Know

We've announced the availability of the Oracle Fusion Applications user experience design patterns. Developers can get going on these using the Design Filter Tool (or DeFT) to select the best pattern for the context of use.


Design Filter Tool (DeFT)

Design Filter Tool selects the best pattern for your user and task.

As you drill into the patterns you will discover more guidelines from the Applications User Experience team and some from the Rich Client User Interface team too that are also leveraged in Fusion Apps. All are based on the Oracle Application Development Framework components.

To accelerate your Fusion apps development and tailoring, here's some inside insight into the really important patterns and guidelines that every apps developer needs to know about. They start at a broad Fusion Apps information architecture level and then become more granular at the page and task levels.

Information Architecture: These guidelines explain how the basic construction of an Oracle Fusion application user interface, enabling you to understand where your new components and changes fit into the overall application's information architecture. So, begin with the UI Shell and Navigation guidelines, and then move on to page-level design using the Work Areas and Dashboards guidelines.

Page Content: These patterns and guidelines cover the most common interactions that are used to complete tasks productively, starting with core interactions that are generally common across all pages, and then moving onto the more task-specific ones.

Core Across All Pages

Task Dependent


Now, armed with all this great insider design information, get developing some great-looking, highly usable apps! Let me know in the comments how things go!

Tuesday Jun 12, 2012

Tweeting about Oracle Applications Usability: Points to Consider

Here are a few pointers to anyone interested in tweeting about Oracle Applications usability or user experience (UX). These are based on my own experiences and practice, and may not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle, of course (touché, see the footer).


  • If you are an Oracle employee and tweet about our offerings, then read up and follow the corporate social media policy. For the record, I tweet under the following account names: @ultan, @localization, @gamifyOracle, and @usableapps. The last two are supposedly Oracle subject-dedicated, but I do mix it up on occassion.

  • Complete the Twitter account profile, and add a profile picture too. Disclose your interest. Don’t leave either the profile or image blank if you want to be taken seriously (or followed by me).

  • Don’t tweet from a locked down ("protected") Twitter account, as your messages cannot be circulated to anyone who doesn't follow you. Open up the account to all if you really want to get that UX message out.

  • Stay on message. The usable apps website, Misha Vaughan's VoX blog, and the Oracle Applications blog are good sources of UX messages and information, but you can find many other product team, individual, and corporate-wide sources with a little bit of searching. Set up a Google Alert with likely keywords and obtain a daily digest of new information right in your inbox.

  • Add your own insight and wit to the message, were relevant. Just circulating and RTing stock headlines adds no value to your effort or to the reader, and is somewhat lazy, in my opinion. That said, don't steal other people's insight and links either. Attribute where appropriate.

  • Leave room for RTing of your tweet. So, don’t max out those 140 characters. Keep it under 130 if you want to be RTed without modification (or at all-I am not a fan of modifying tweets [MT], way too much effort for the medium). Use URL shorteners, remove articles and punctuation marks and use fragments, abbreviations, and so on at will to keep the tweet short enough, but leave keywords intact, as people search on those.

  • Follow any Fusion UX Advocates who are on Twitter too (you can search for these names), and not just Oracle employees. Don't just follow the people you like or think like you, or those who you think like you or are like-minded. Take a look at who is following or being followed by whom and er, follow up.

  • Create and socialize others to use an easily remembered or typed hashtag, or use what’s already popularized (for an event or conference, for example). We used #gamifyOracle for the Applications UX gamification design jam, and other popular applications UX ones are #fusionapps and #usableapps (or at least I’m trying to popularize it). But, before you start the messaging, if you want to keep a record of the hashtag traffic and analyze it, then set it up with an archiving service. Twitter’s own tweet lifespan is short.

  • Don't confuse hashtags (#) with Twitter handles (@) that have the same name. Sending a tweet to @gamifyOracle will just be seen by @gamifyOracle (me) and any followers we have in common. Sending it to #gamifyOracle is seen by anyone following or searching for that hashtag.

  • No dissing the competition. But there is no rule about not following them on Twitter to see the market reactions to Oracle announcements enabling you to tailor your own message accordingly.

  • Don’t be boring. Mix it up a bit. Every 10th or so tweet, divert into other areas of interest, personal ones, even. No constant “Thank you Joe Schmoe for giving me +K for this, that, and the other” or “I just ousted Mr X as Mayor of on foursquare" pouring into the Twitterstream, please. I just don’t care and will probably unfollow pretty quickly.

And now, your Twitter tips and experiences with this subject? Them go in the comments...

Wednesday May 02, 2012

Oracle Fusion Mobile Expenses

A big shout out to the Applications User Experience team (and the rest of the team too) for the Oracle Fusion Mobile Expenses app. Check iTunes for availability.

Brilliant.

Watch out for more articles about this kind of innovation. Expenses the way they should be done. You betcha! No more error messaging unplugged, like this real world expense form rejection method that I picked up:


PostIt note showing rejected expenses because Sellotape was used

Wednesday Feb 22, 2012

Books for Fusion Apps Implementors and Administrators: Total Fusion Apps Experience

With Oracle Fusion Applications available, it's time for enterprises to think about business requirements and implementation plans. That means understanding how Fusion apps is developed and best managed.

Fusion apps is new, so what better way for implementors to deliver a successful project than to rely on the insight of those respected, in-demand, experts who can explain in straightforward language, and show in easy steps, how Fusion apps technology works together. Three books that do just that: Managing Oracle Fusion Applications by Richard Bingham, Quick Start Guide to Oracle Fusion Development: Oracle JDeveloper and Oracle ADF by Grant Ronald, and Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development—Made Simple by Sten Vesterli.

What's In 'Em, Then?

Highly recommended publications for Fusion apps IT professionals, the content is of a technical nature sure, but it pivots on the role of user experience. Together, these books bring to life the concept of consumerization of IT for enterprise applications by telling you how:


  • Fusion apps offers a new standard in user experience. Based on the Applications Development Framework (ADF) and Fusion Middleware (FMW) platform, a cutting edge, action-oriented AJAX Web 2.0 UI delivers higher levels of usability for users that can be taken even further though personalization, customization and extensibility capability (aka tailoring).
  • Implementation doesn’t need new hires or expertise to work with the technology. Fusion apps is built on open standards, leveraging access to Java and XML developers.
  • Fusion apps provides scalability in use and deployment. The FMW platform, SOA, metadata services (MDS), the ADF MVC framework, and reusable UI components and design guidance, enables implementors to flexibly tailor an experience for their enterprise's needs, provide for integrations, and maintain and future-proof the investment.
  • Fusion apps really is an enterprise experience ecosystem. Implementing Fusion apps you gives you access to a whole range of Oracle management tools that integrate with a top-notch support organization. Dashboards are not just for end users.

Book by Book, Exploring Further...

Richard Bingham is an Oracle Senior Principal Technical Support Engineer and a major pacesetter when it comes to customer service. (@richardbingham) Richard tells you how to keep Fusion apps end users, decision makers, and other stakeholders happy after implementation using next generation Fusion apps manageability, a key business enabler. Richard explains the Fusion apps product and technical architecture, and covers the central roles of the business process model and the role of user experience in design (user assistance is included; more about that at UKOUG Ireland).

Setting Fusion Apps diagnostic logging verbosity level UI

Setting the Fusion Apps diagnostic logging verbosity level in the troubleshooting UI.

An ever changing dynamic, the open nature of the Fusion apps technology, SOA, flexible business process execution, and a Web 2.0 UI means that apps users and managers will have high expectations so tools are vital. So, a powerful Fusion applications life cycle model based on goals of application reliability, availability, performance, optimization, and governance is introduced by Richard and a toolbox for each area explored. These toolboxes, based on Oracle standard platform tools and the Fusion apps supportability features, can be used by existing teams and resources available to them from Oracle. Richard's checklist for the Oracle enterprise application manager and list of resources gets you going on the road to keeping all apps stakeholders sweet.

Grant Ronald is an Oracle ACE and a senior product management executive in Oracle's Application Development Tools division. His book enables you to quickly understand and create a Fusion app using the ADF and the Oracle JDeveloper IDE . Grant makes it simple for you to grasp the Fusion origins, the Java EE, SOA, and Web 2.0 technology pillars, and the MVC framework concepts behind ADF. A JDev walkthrough and you’re ready to build an ADF app, from handling data with ADF business components to using ADF DVT and other advanced UI techniques. Super, no-nonsense stuff that I tried at home and built a Fusion app in a few hours. Tip: Read the book from start to finish first; don't start by designing a UI.

Sten Vesterli (@stenvesterli) is a Fusion User Experience Advocate (FXA) and Ace Director. His book gets you going with ADF and JDev to create enterprise apps in a methodological way that makes sense for development teams. With his “let’s do it” approach, Sten tells you how to make projects successful through planning and resourcing, a proof of concept phase, and takes you through the entire development process of putting a highly usable app into the hands of users. As an FXA, Sten knows all about the Fusion Apps user experience, and this book talks about the importance of design and usability expertise. A chapter on ADF skinning tells you how to create professional look and feel to your apps along with flexibility in deploying for different audiences and another chapter on ADF localization features enables you to take your app worldwide. More information about the usefulness of this book is here.

In Conclusion...

A great set of publications of tremendous value to implementers in going about making the best decisions in how to deliver successful implementations and to show ROI. A killer combination for the Fusion apps implementor and administrator's resource library.

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.

Profile

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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