Monday Sep 19, 2011

Squirting is a Software Experience? Mind Your Language, Please

The language used in an application's user interface (UI) is a critical aspect of the user experience (UX), bit one often overlook. Des Traynor (@destraynor) brought this importance artfully to life at Refresh Dublin in his presentation on the Language of Interfaces. Well worth checking out, Des emphasized how language choice determines user action and engagement, with the simple choice of text for a button label or placeholder for status update making all the difference.

In Oracle Fusion Applications, for example, there's a big difference between the button labels Save, Submit, or Done, and the action that they imply to take on a page. Save implies an intermediate state during data object or process creation that the user will return to later before the task can be finalized. Submit is a final action, committing an object to the database or handing off a process, thus ending the task. Done is generally used to conclude the user review of a read-only page, closing it.

Save and Submit buttons together on a page


Google Wave's choice of Done however (as pointed out by Des) didn't help much with the puzzling concept of what anyone was expected to do with a wave to begin with. Language alone isn't going to save a rubbish UX.

Google Wave UI Done button


Des used some great examples from social media to as examples. Compare the language and action implied of the Facebook friend with the LinkedIn contact or the contact categorizations of Google+'s circles. Determining the action should shift from a third-person to first person paradigm led Facebook to change its status update text to What's on your mind? Twitter switched from What are you doing? to What's happening?

US English Twitter and Facebook status placeholder text

Not every natural language follows the English direction however. What's up with that? And, what about the challenges offered by crowdsourced language (as in the Dutch version of Twitter)? Facebook's community translation feature, as I pointed out before, is as much a user engagement strategy as a way of obtaining translated UIs (but not help) very quickly for the local market.

French and Dutch Twitter status placeholder text

French and German Facebook Status Placeholder Text

This choice of evolving or action-intended words can be a challenge for controlling the action globally. My old friend Frank Dietz in Multilingual magazine tells of the challenge of finding German translations for gaming concepts (buff, debuff, kiting, toon hop, and so on) for example, having to rely on transcreation, Denglisch, or the English term itself.


What the presentation didn't cover was how the language in the UI drives the creation of language around the intended action within the user community too. Unfriend, for example, appeared nowhere in the Facebook UI, but is a well-established word now. ReTweeting (or RTing) was a term and concept that came from the Twitter community, before it was codified. Personalization features that allow users to control the language or add their own are critical UX features too, particularly in the mobile space.

Apple iOS5 shortcut personalization feature

As for the choice of squirting to convey the sharing of music in Microsoft Zune (see Des's presentation), well, nobody over the age of five should be squirting anything at anybody, should they? What were they thinking? And yet,they're back with internet charms...


Find those comments...

Sunday Jul 03, 2011

How to Capture Android Device Screenshots Without Rooting

For UX research and outreach purposes, capturing screenshots from live code is essential. People love to have examples from real world apps as design guidance, and mobile apps are no exception. Except, capturing screens from Android devices is a real pain. Unlike holding down two buttons on an iOS device, conventional screen capture guidance for Android usually has you fretting over the risks of rooting your expensive device first and then using a downloaded application (such as ShootMe) to take the pictures you want.

The problem with this advice, besides mastering the technical aspects of doing it, is that rooting a device generally invalidates the carrier's device warranty, so you do so at your own risk. If the procedure goes wrong, then you could be left with a bricked device and no recourse to official device support. So, I am indebted to Joe Welinske's new book "Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps" for an alternative way to capture screens from an Android device without using root, thought you do have to have the Android SDK installed:

1. Connect your Android device to the machine with the SDK installed.

2. On the Android device, go to Settings, Applications, Development and enable USB debugging.

3. From the SDK's tools folder, run DDMS.

4. From the Dalvik Debugging Monitor (DDM) UI, select your mobile device's name.

5. From DDM, select Device, Screen capture. A window showing what's currently on your mobile device's screen is shown.

6. Click the Save button on the Device Screen Capture window to use what's shown as an image file for on your blog, in design guidelines, for further editing, and so on.

Dalvik Debugging Monitor from the Android SDK

Invaluable for capturing those Android notifications!

Android Notifications

The gotcha in all this, of course, is that if you're nervous of rooting your device, then would you be the kind of person to go through all the steps to set up the SDK in the first place?

Really, what Android needs is a way for users to capture these screens easily without rooting the device and using special apps, or by using the SDK. Now, when is that going to happen?

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.

Tuesday Jun 21, 2011

Apple Gets the Message About Centralized Notifications on Mobile

Yep, looks like iOS5 introduces a centralized messaging system: the Notification Center.

Image of notification center referenced from Appe.com. Copyright acknowledged.

Wonder where they got that idea from?

Seriously, way to go though; this matches and probably betters what I really like about Android’s notifications system. I’ll have to check it out myself, though.

Application UX's own research last year confirmed that the centralized approach really is something that enterprise users in the US and in the UK wanted. The iOS5 feature will really help Apple in the enterprise user market too. Up to now, iOS has been dismal in the notifications space anyway, IMO, and pretty useless for users on the go using different apps and communications methods (business and personal - the line has become so blurred now) together and who need to manage all those their notifications efficiently, reflective of how they work.

I'll be also watching out for what personalization features are offered around the notification center, and what level of control users have over when, where, and how they get those notifications.

Good job, Apple.

Wednesday Feb 09, 2011

User Experience Guidance for Developers: Anti-Patterns

Picked this up from a recent Dublin Google Technology User Group meeting: Android App Mistakes: Avoiding the Anti-Patterns by Mark Murphy of CommonsWare. Interesting approach of "anti-patterns" aimed at mobile developers (in this case Android), looking at the best way to use code and what's in the SDK while combining it with UX guidance (the premise being the developer does the lot).

anti-patterns message about forcing wrong UI

Interestingly, the idea came through that developers need to stop trying to make one O/S behave like another--on UX grounds. Also, pretty clear that a web-based paradigm is being promoting for Android (translators tell me that translating an Android app reminded them of translating web pages, too). Haven't see the "anti"-approach before, developer cookbooks, and design patterns, sure. Check out the slideshare presentation.

Sunday Sep 19, 2010

Oracle Apps-UX at UA Europe 2010

The Applications User Experience User Assistance team (well, myself, Laurie Pattison, and Erika Webb anyway!) attended the "UA Europe 2010":http://www.uaconference.eu/ conference in Stockholm.

In addition to sessions on DITA-based writing patterns  and enterprise mobile apps UA research and design, we held a lunchtime discussion on the iPad and user assistance, and took time to talk at length with author Anne Gentle and exchange views with other lots of other UA and information strategy professionals.

I am really happy with the thought leadership that Apps-UX displayed in the UA space. It's such a great group to work in! Watch out for a forthcoming interview with Anne Gentle on the usableapps website. Here's to the next conference!

About

Oracle applications user experience (UX) assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps dev community, helping to design and deliver usable apps in the cloud.

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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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