Sunday Feb 16, 2014

It's Not How You Wink, It's How You Work

What might wearable technology user experience guidance look like? Well, we're sharpening up the guidelines and trying them out them out at wearables design jams, internally to Oracle for now.

The first Oracle UX design jam was held in January. This was a pilot event to try out some ideas for delivering wearables design enablement to a wider audience. It was a very successful event that showed off our own innovations and harnessed the smarts of a diverse audience drawn from across Oracle, worldwide.


Wearables design jam idea
Creative wearables design for enterprise problem. Design jam teams had to a) solve an enterprise problem with a wearables solution, and b) do it by integrating the device with Oracle technology.


Ultan demonstrating Necomimi Brainwave Ears Cat Ears
Ultan demonstrating Necomimi Brainwave Cat Ears. A must-have for all wearables evangelists.

Customers and partners stay tuned. Follow along on the VOX blog and the Usable Apps website for news of outreach events. Follow along with @usableapps on Twitter too.

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.

Thursday Nov 21, 2013

Dress Code 2.0: Wearables

It used to be that enterprises had this thing called a dress code to "inform" employees about what they could and couldn't wear in work. That's all changed these days, largely.

But now, enterprises need to react to what technology their employees will wear when working. Enterprises are about to take advantage of how the latest trend in technology, "wearables", will transform work and make workers smarter and enable them to complete their tasks more easily.


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/76/Google_Glass_detail.jpg/640px-Google_Glass_detail.jpg

The term "wearables" itself, for me, is too broad. We also have the Quantified Self arrivistes, and talk of "little data" or "the personal API" to contend with, so I'd prefer to think of wearables, in the enterprise context, as another optimized UI, part of an overall user experience.

Wearable technology, this way, might be best analyzed as being for a certain set of users to do certain tasks using certain devices. Using cloud-based data as the source of truth, all can be exchanged between other users and devices, meeting business objectives by solving business problems in an efficient, effective, and satisfying way (that's called "usability", folks).

We are past the fad stage, and real business cases are being identified (as this Wall Street Journal article, "Wearable Gadgets Transform How Companies Do Business" points out). Putting together the opportunities for integration of applications at the consumer level and those business services appearing, we can see an emergent technology and user experience roadmap for workers to be even more productive.

This is a fascinating area, and ironically IMO, again it seems that the enterprise offers more potential for realistic value-adds and faster adoption for wearables than the personal space does. Admittedly, it can be as hard to separate personal and work technologies from each other these days as it is to separate your work clothes from leisure wear, but does that really matter?

Talk of wearables is still dominated by a narrow range of devices, namely Google Glass and various smart watches, and most usage we see and hear about is of a healthcare, sporting, fitness, or just exploratory and fun nature.

However, thinking about wearables from a problem-solving perspective and taking in disparate technologies and use cases from the personal, enterprise, startup and open-source world is a more fruitful exploration, I think. And, we need to think beyond glasses and watches too, and think about what services, APIs, sensors, OpenCV (Open Source Computer Vision), voice, and more, can offer with integration and interconnectivity in the cloud.

The Oracle Applications User Experience team is up on the wearables technology and enterprise potential, so stay tuned. We've already shown off some early use cases in the CRM space for Google Glass, but there is a lot more coming.

We will bring a whole new dimension to the notion of "dress code" in work. Your participation and insight as Oracle customers and partners, and as users of our applications, has an open invitation, as always, to inform our innovations.

Exciting times.

Read more about wearables and the Applications User Experience team on Misha Vaughan's (@mishavaughan) VOX Blog.

Tuesday Jul 31, 2012

Thoughts on Google Project Glasss: CRM and More...

Knocked up and presented at today's inside a few minutes at Google Developer Group Dublin's Google I/O Extended Extended session of 31-July-2012: my exploration of Project Glass.

Covers what Project Glass is, the UX dimension, the innovation opportunities presented, the developer uptake, some references for you, and a call to action.



Note:If this presentation doesn't play in your browser, then you can also access the Google Project Glass Slideshare presentation directly.

Won a prize for this one too. Thanks GDG Dublin. Super event. You can follow GDG Dublin on Twitter too.

Tuesday Jul 10, 2012

Tom Cruise: Meet Fusion Apps UX and Feel the Speed

Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember, and now to admit that I really loved, the movie Top Gun. You know the one - Tom Cruise, US Navy F-14 ace pilot, Mr Maverick, crisis of confidence, meets woman, etc., etc.

Anyway, one of more memorable lines (there were a few) was: "I feel the need, the need for speed."



I was reminded of Tom Cruise recently. Paraphrasing a certain Senior Vice President talking about Oracle Fusion Applications and user experience at an all-hands meeting, I heard that:


Applications can never be too easy to use. Performance can never be too fast. Developers, assume that your code is always "on".

Perfect. You cannot overstate the user experience importance of application speed to users, or at least their perception of speed. We all want that super speed of execution and performance, and increasingly so as enterprise users bring the expectations of consumer IT into the work environment.

Sten Vesterli (@stenvesterli), an Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience Advocate, also addressed the speed point artfully at an Oracle Usability Advisory Board meeting in Geneva.

Sten asked us that when we next Googled something, to think about the message we see that Google has found hundreds of thousands or millions of results for us in a split second (for example, About 8,340,000 results (0.23 seconds)). Now, how many results can we see and how many can we use immediately (10)? Yet, this simple message communicating the total results available to us works a special magic about speed, delight, and excitement that Google has made its own in the search space.

And, guess what? The Oracle Application Development Framework table component relies on a similar "virtual performance boost", says Sten, when it displays the first 50 records in a table, and uses a scrollbar indicating the total size of the data record set. The user scrolls and the application automatically retrieves more records as needed. Depending on the data model setup, developers can also supply paging control status text similar to Google. Naturally, displaying more information can have performance implications, another important variable in UX, so bear that constraint in mind.

Application speed and its perception by users is worth bearing in mind the next time you're at a customer site and the IT Department demands that you retrieve every record from the database. Just think of... Dave Ensor:


I'll give you all the (database) rows you ask for in one second. If you promise to use them.

(Again, hat tip to Sten.)

And then maybe think of... Tom Cruise.

And if you want to read about the speed of Oracle Fusion Applications, and what that really means in terms of user productivity for your entire business, then check out the Oracle Applications User Experience Oracle Fusion Applications white papers on the usable apps website.

Sunday Jul 03, 2011

The Importance of Context in Mobile App Design

Great presentation by Josh Holmes (@joshholmes) of Microsoft Ireland (I am a former employee) called "Is that a Rich Web in Your Pocket?" delivered at the Google Technology User Group meet in Dublin last week (28-Jun-2011). Central to the notion of great mobile design is understanding the user experience, or context, if you like. Mobile users use their devices to perform discrete tasks, quickly, want a minimum of information to enter manually, and are subject to disruption in their tasks. Designers need to take into account what's going on around users too.

You can read more about these considerations on the Oracle Applications-UX usableapps website too. See Lynn Rampoldi-Hnilo's Going Native: Ethnographic Research to Understand Mobile Workers and Lynn and Brent White's Design for the Mobile Enterprise articles.

Take a look at Josh's presentation and contrast how the mobile user experience contrasts with the desktop (or webtop) experience. Great to see a Microsoft Architect Evangelist speaking at a Google event too! Got me thinking about what I can contribute to this great community resource too.

If you don't know about the Google Technology User Group in Dublin, then check out the GTUG Google Group.

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 Google.com

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

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 amazon.com 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 http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/ website. Give it a shot. Remember, comics can make you a better communicator.

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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