Tuesday Oct 30, 2012

Oracle Launches Mobile Applications User Experience Design Patterns

OK, you heard Joe Huang (@JoeHuang_Oracle) Product Manager for Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) Mobile. If you're an ADF developer, or a Java (yeah, Java in iOS!) developer, well now you're a mobile developer as well. And, using the newly launched Applications User Experience (UX) team's Mobile UX Design Patterns, you're a UX developer rockstar too, offering users so much more than just cool functionality.


Mobile Design Pattern for Inline Actions

Mobile design requires a different way of thinking. Use Oracle’s mobile design patterns to design iPhone, Android, or browser-based smartphone apps. Oracle's sharing these cutting edge mobile design patterns and their baked-in, scientifically proven usability to enable Oracle customers and partners to build mobile apps quickly.

The design patterns are common solutions that developers can easily apply across all application suites. Crafted by the UX team's insight into Oracle Fusion Middleware, the patterns are designed to work with the mobile technology provided by the Oracle Application Development Framework.

Other great UX-related information on using ADF Mobile to design task flows and the development experience on offer are on the ADF EMG podcast series. Check out FXAer Brian 'Bex' Huff (@bex of Bezzotech talking about ADF Mobile in podcast number 6 and also number 8 which has great tips about getting going with Android and iOS mobile app development from Stephen Johnson (@sjintegretas).

Sunday Jul 29, 2012

BYOD: Ultimate Work Device Personalization. What Does It Mean for Oracle Apps?

Bring Your Own Device (known as BYOD) is an increasingly popular information and communications technology (ICT) strategy where users are allowed by their employers to use whatever device they prefer to do their jobs and to integrate these devices with other services and data. Devices are personally owned by the user or may be funded by the employer.


The future help desk in the BYOD world?

Yep, BYOD is on the uptake and a hot topic in user experience (UX). Driving forces are many: the influence of what users are doing in their personal lives, powerful emotional attachments to brands and delightful web and mobile-based user experiences, exposure to many more device options, working a company with a strong acquisitions record, and so on. Major technology players are reacting strategically.

With BYOD comes the advantages of superior, personalized user experience, flexibility of working, increased productivity at work, less training needed, and so on. The good is nuanced by issues of corporate liability, security of devices and data from loss or virus attack, integrating a multiplicity of solutions, maintaining versions, scaling the device support offered, questions about control over assets, and other concerns. For some, BYOD is a Bring Your Own Disaster waiting to happen. But, evidence of accelerating BYOD uptake is strong as explained, along with the top pros and cons, in this super infographic.

BYOD may be considered as part of what we call the consumerization of information technology (COIT) in the workplace, where expectations about applications and device UX in work are set by those familiar consumer apps and websites used in an employee’s personal capacity. For me, BYOD is the ultimate strategic expression of device personalization in work. There are plenty of applications UX research areas to explore.

For example, we could investigate how productive are users of apps on different devices. Or, what are the user experience expectations influencing apps? How can apps design be responsive (or neutral), depending on what the user wants to use or do? What are the integration, security, or performance aspects of apps on all these different devices? How can a range of apps perform effectively, efficiently and satisfy a wide audience’s requirements as new devices rapidly appear? How important is consistency of look and feel, and interaction, across devices (ever compared gestures on different mobile devices)? What about user frustration or confusion with so many choices and self-reliance? How can support organizations react? You get the idea...

So, what does BYOD mean for apps in the world of work? Well, for example, in the CRM space, users may use a range of official and personal tools, everything from Microsoft Outlook to RIM BlackBerry smart phones, Apple iPads, Microsoft Excel, Google Search, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on. The data for all these devices and apps is centrally managed in a database and processed by business intelligence software (and shown using cool visual analytics such as those in our dashboard design patterns), integrating with solutions on–premise or in the cloud. This all makes sense. CRM sales users generally hate the idea of using enterprise apps. It’s all about sales for those guys and gals, so accommodating their context of use through personal device choice is critical.

BYOD interest has been really driven by mobile phone and apps in the workplace with employees using their personal devices to make business calls, installing corporate business apps to perform their work tasks, or integrate with social media or other consumer apps from app stores to help them get their jobs done quickly and easily. However, BYOD goes much further than mobile or the security issues that seem to dominate right the discussion right now. Examples of, or BYOD in the UX area, might include:


  • Using personally purchased laptops that are not available through the corporate procurement policy on the corporate network. For example, users connecting their Apple Mac Book Airs to a network in an organization where only Microsoft Windows-based PCs and desktops are officially distributed.

  • Being allowed to pick and purchase any device preferred and expensing the cost to the employer who then supports the device officially.

  • Using personal tablets (iPad, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire, and so on) in the field loaded with business and personal apps, while traveling, visiting or working at remote locations.

  • Catching up on the latest press releases and other docs using an eReader powered by a Raspberry Pi processor just before leaving the hotel to go to that business meeting, or maybe refreshing your mind about the latest release notes while servicing a solution at a customer site.

  • Connecting home PCs or smart televisions to a corporate intranet to use work email or collaboration tools.

  • Help desks and support solutions providing a range of user friendly, walk-in, or concierge solutions for any device, such as the Apple Genius Bar approach. The final nail in the coffin of the “contact your sys admin” error message!

  • Using gaming consoles, gesture-based, augmented reality or even wearable devices available to consumers, to run business applications or process information. For example, a CRM user might use Google Glass specs to visualize Google Maps or Analytics for sales leads, and then use Google Translate about multilingual opportunities while on the move.

  • Using their devices to connect a knowledge-based mobile service solution to a 3-D printer and print a replacement part or prototype for review at a customer site.

  • Using Microsoft Kinect or a Leap Motion system to move market opportunities around a large scale map by gesture, modeling different territories sales scenarios, and so on.

  • Turning to the Oracle Fusion Middleware toolkit to integrate open source GPS tracking devices with Oracle Fusion Supply Chain Management to manage deliveries in real time.

  • Or, how about using a Nintendo DS to approve your team’s expense or vacation notifications with some sly working during a family holiday?

Phew!

So, watch out for more BYOD research from me in the coming months, and if you’re a partner or customer, stay tuned to the Oracle Usability Advisory Board events.

Comments welcome!

Monday Jul 09, 2012

Computer Says No: Mobile Apps Connectivity Messages

Sharing some insight into connectivity messages for mobile applications. Based on some recent ethnography done by myself, and prompted by a real business case, I would recommend a message that:


  • In plain language, briefly and directly tells the user what is wrong and why. Something like: Cannot connect because of a network problem.
  • Affords the user a means to retry connecting (or attempts automatically). Mobile context of use means users anticipate possible interruptability and disruption of task, so they will try again as an effective course of action.
  • Tells the user when connection is re-established, and off they go.
  • Saves any work already done, implicitly. (Bonus points on the ADF critical task setting scale for that one.)

The following images showing my experience while reading ADF-EMG Google Groups notification my (Android ICS) Samsung Galaxy S2 during a loss of Wi-Fi give you a good idea of a suitable kind of messaging user experience (UX) for mobile apps in this kind of situation.

Connection lost message with retry button

Inline connection lost message with Retry button

Connection re-established message

Connection re-established toaster message

The UX possible is dependent on device and platform features, sure, so remember to integrate with the device capability (see point 10 of this great article on mobile design by Brent White and Lynn Rampoldi-Hnilo) but taking these considerations into account is far superior to a context-free dumbed down common error message repurposed from the desktop mentality about the connection to the server being lost, so just "Click OK" or "Contact your sysadmin".

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

Friday Mar 09, 2012

Wo Ist Mein Handy? Securing Data on Mobile Devices with Oracle ADF Mobile

Our user research tells us that security of devices and mobile devices and data is a major issue that needs to be addressed before an enterprise will embark on a serious mobile strategy. This is not surprising. Certainly, it’s disruptive when you lose a personal device, but the loss of a device with critical or confidential enterprise data is much more serious. The evidence that data will be compromised from lost or stolen mobile devices is very real, according to Symantec studies.


Wo ist mein handy? Stephen Fry. Copyright BBC. All rights acknowledged.

Concerns about losability have been with us for a while. A serious UX issue for sure, HCI research even considers losability/findability of mobile devices a mobile usability heuristic, à la Jakob Nielsen.

Since mobile devices often get lost, adequate measures such as encryption of the data should be taken to minimize loss. If the device is misplaced, the device, system or application should make it easy to find it back.

Bertini, E., Gabrielli, S. and Kimani S. (2006). Appropriating and assessing heuristics for mobile computing. AVI '06 Proceedings of the working conference on advanced visual interfaces.


Many devices now come with a remote wipe capability. BlackBerry has enterprise-level security. Others have an easy way to track the device’s location too (Apple's iCloud, for example). However, that’s not enough for mobile app data and usage security. Oracle ADF Mobile has the solution.

ADF Mobile's use of communication encryption, authentication through identity management, and use of access control APIs -- combined with support of native O/S device security--meets the needs of enterprises by addressing those security concerns that might hold up a mobile strategy implementation.

Watch out for more UX aspects of using ADF Mobile and other mobile UX resources on this blog, soon!

Oracle Applications User Experience Mobile Apps Design Patterns

While in Munich, I also talked about the Oracle Applications User Experience (Applications-UX) Mobile UX strategy.

The Oracle Applications-UX team has made a strategic investment in mobile user experience, with a dedicated team of cognitive psychologists; usability engineers, interaction designers, architects, and so on that innovates fast and hard, brainstorms on cutting edge mobile UX design solutions for all Oracle applications. The mobile space changes rapidly, and this presentation generated a lot of excitement and energy in the audience.

Again, I used local examples to get the message across. I used the Android version of the clever-tanken.de app as a local market example (on the day the top paid Android app in Germany) and illustrated how important ethnography is to the user-centered design process behind our mobile strategy.


Finding that cheap gas in Germany with the clever-tanken.de Android app.

For example, although almost 90% of German workers are contactable out of hours, workers don’t always want to be reached and value their work-lfe balance. VW has agreed not to contact workers in six plants in Germany on their BlackBerries out of hours accordingly. So, from a user requirements perspective in Germany it’s critical to take into account those labor unions or Betriebsräten as stakeholders.

I also explained our user-centered, multistakeholder, mobile design patterns creation process (it includes Apple consultation in the case of iPhone app designs), and how these patterns provide proven cutting edge user experience solutions in a scalable, reusable way for mobile app development teams.

Developing apps using these up-to-the-minute olutions requires a development environment to match. The ever-changing mobile O/S landscape, ADF Mobile enables developers and partners to respond rapidly to changing user experience expectations without redeveloping content. We can support the same content, easily, across different devices with no compromise on user experience or native O/S navigation or actions, while addressing mobile data security issues that customers tell us about, and more. Read the Oracle ADF Mobile white paper for more details.

If you’re presenting to worldwide audiences about mobile user experience, then I recommend that you check out appannie.com for the latest market intelligence including local app popularity charts (it's iPhone, iPad and Android right now) and some very nice infographics on the state of mobile computing. Other useful stats on mobile usage growth, including number of devices and data usage, is available from techcrunch.com.

Wednesday Oct 05, 2011

Designing Mobile Enterprise Applications User Assistance: 10 Points to Consider

Here are design considerations to optimize the mobile enterprise applications user assistance. These considerations are based on Oracle Applications User Experience research into mobile user assistance, ethnography, and context of use. Understanding mobile app users' profiles and the mobile context--and how it differs from the desktop--is critical to delivering a successful overall user experience.

1. Forget the notion of porting over documentation manuals in any form to mobile devices. Users on the move do not have time to read such content. How the mobile app communicates with users must reflect a world of changing location, frequent disruption, and the need to complete tasks rapidly or to maybe revisit them later when time, social circumstance, or information availability changes.  Brent White's blog entry on mobile design principles will help you focus on how design must reflect the mobile user context.

2. Pay close attention to the language in the app UI. Language drives user action. If a term requires explanation to users then it's probably the wrong term. Explaining terminology slows down users and wastes valuable real estate in the UI.

Generally, web-based mobile apps terminology can follow the desktop version, while native apps can use the familiar terms provided by their platform. Test any new terminology along with interactions before you release the app.

The style of language (formal, casual, and so on) must reflect the user profile. Check out these excellent mobile international style guides from Microsoft for examples.

3. Avoid writing procedural user help about the task flow. If such usability isn't intuitive, then the app usability has failed. A quick first-run only orientation to new feature functionality is all that's needed in terms on onboard assistance for mobile apps, along with some basic instruction around areas that might not be often used, such as settings or configuration.

LinkedIn and iPhone user assistance

Full screen overlays or component popups can act as a modal barrier to task completion, slowing down users working under pressure. Use inline information instead.

Google search help on mobile

4. Eliminate errors by affirmations in advance, using placeholder text showing examples of data format, usage intention and so on (check out the HTML5 placeholder types for examples, and native device apps can offer similar features). Allowing users to quickly enter numeric, date or other data in the format they want and then seamlessly converting it to the accepted storage format is also the way to go. See the Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) Trinidad converter demos for the idea.

5. Allow users to complete fields on the screen in any order they like, and then perform a validation on final action rather than validating each field one by one and slowing down task completion.

Validate data input on the device before submission to the server, saving on round tripping time from the mobile device if you can. Use those validation or conversion features to speed up the entire task completion process, reflecting a mental model of users knowing their data entry is valid on the mobile device rather than hoping it was on the server.

6. Inline placement for messages for task-completion errors and confirmation messages is best as this approach doesn't block access to the page or disrupt the user too much if they want to complete another task from the same page. Dialog boxes are still best for those critical issues, however (at this point, the user action has already stopped).

Inline versus dialog box message

7. Show the message clearly with distinct visual indicators and near the point of the error (see the ADF Trinidad demo on messages for an example). Different types of messages (error, warnings, or confirmations, for example) require different visual indicators and styling so that users can learn the intent of each type quickly and also rely on such visual indicators elsewhere without the benefit of reading the message text too.

8. Centralized lists of messages in a notifications center are the way to go for sure, but allow users to control which ones they want to see and when. Android does a great job on notifications, but Apple’s iOS5 looks set to create a new standard in mobile notifications and their personalization (the following screens are from pre-released software).

Apple iOS 5 notifications center

9. Choice of content for messages may vary depending on what application functionality is available or regional user preference even. For example, our research into expense report submission confirmation messages, revealed that US and UK-based mobile app users wanted to see the word successful in the message (indicating the task was completed as intended), though UK-based users were less adamant about the word. UK users preferred to have more details of transaction objects in the message content (for example, the expense report and amount), whereas US users preferred a simpler message without all the details. So, how do you resolve such differences?

Expenses confirmation message text alternatives

A difficult question to answer without access to the entire task flow or application features, but in this case, let context win out over consistency. Include the word successful, as users want to be assured that their task is done. Although only one word, it shapes their perception of what has happened. Are users on the move likely to remember all the expense details anyway after they dismiss the message? Probably not. So, allow users to refer back to a notifications center that reminds shows that the action was successful and all relevant transaction details as well as further activity around the transaction (approval, deposit of reimbursement, and so on).

10. What about audio, sound, or vibrate options as messaging for mobile app activity? These options can be offered as a personalization feature if your development effort can afford it, but don't expect a whole ton of usage uptake right now. Auditory messages can be ill timed for sure depending on the context. Who wants to receive a message like this during a business meeting?

Informational messages can always be recalled from a centralized notifications list, as they frequently don't demand immediate response. This is superior from showing them suddenly on the page during transaction completion, disrupting the current activity anyway.

As for SMS (text messaging) used for application confirmations, sure, such a personalization option can be considered, but as a lower priority, as there may be security issues at stake in an enterprise environment. Functionality that enables users to see confirmations from a centralized notifications center and to take any follow up actions arising from that location (for example, knowing when an expense report is approved) allows for more efficient working.

You may have other considerations. If so, then find the comments. To explore this area further, don’t forget to check out Marta Rauch's (@martarauch) presentation at LavaCon 2011 on mobile user assistance usability guidelines.

About

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.

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), PaaS,SaaS, design patterns, tailoring, Cloud, dev productivity, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW and ADF, and a lot more.

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