Friday Nov 02, 2012

Feeling Old? Before Middleware, Gamification, and MacBook Airs

Think we're done with green screens in the enterprise apps world?

Fusion User Experience Advocate Debra Lilley (@debralilley) drew my attention to this super retro iPad terminal emulator app being used by a colleague to connect to JDE. Yes, before Middleware, this is how you did it. Surely the ultimate in hipster retro coexistence? Mind you, I've had to explain to lots of people I showed this to just what Telnet and IBM AS/400 are (or were).


TN5250 Telnet iPad App

MochaSoft TN5250 Terminal Emulator iPad App

This OG way of connecting to apps is a timely reminder not to forget all those legacy apps out there and the UX aspect to adoption and change. If a solution already works well and there's an emotional attachment to it, then the path to upgrade needs to be very clear and have valuable and demonstrable ROI for users and decision makers, a path that spans emotion and business benefits. On a pure usability front, that old school charm of the character-based green glow look 'n' feel could be easily done as a skin, personalizing an application for the user so that they feel comfortable with it. Fun too particularly in the mobile and BYOD space!

In fact, there is a thriving retro apps market out there as illustrated by this spiffy lunar lander app (hat tip: John Cartan), part of a whole set of Atari's greatest hits available for iOS.


Lunar Lander App

Lunar Lander App

And of course, there's the iOS version of Pong.

Check out this retro Apple Mac SE/30 too. I actually remember using one of these. I have an Apple Mac Plus somewhere in my parents' house. I tried it out recently, and it actually booted, although all it was good for was playing the onboard games.

Looking at all these olde worlde things makes me feel very old, but kinda warm inside too. The latter is a key part of today's applications user experience too.

Monday Aug 27, 2012

InSync12 and Australia Visits: UX is Global, Regional, Everywhere!

I attended the Australian Oracle User Group (AUSOUG) and Quest International User Group's InSync12 event in Melbourne, Australia: the user group conference for Oracle products in the ANZ region. I demoed Oracle Fusion Applications and then presented how Oracle crafted the world class Fusion Apps user experience (UX). I explained about the Oracle user experience design pattern strategy of uptake for all apps, not just Fusion, and what our UX pattern externalization strategy means for customers, partners, and ADF developers.

A great conference, lots of energy, the InSync12 highlights for me were Oracle's Senior Vice President Cliff Godwin’s fast-moving Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) roadshow with the killer Oracle Endeca user experience uptake, and Oracle ADF product outreachmeister Chris Muir’s (@chriscmuir) session on Oracle ADF Mobile solution and his hands-on mobile app development showing how existing ADF/JDev skills can build a secure, code once-deploy-to-many-device hybrid app solution in minutes.

Cliff Godwin shows off the Endeca integration with EBS

Cliff Godwin shows off the Oracle Endeca integration with Oracle E-Business Suite.

Chris Muir talked the talk and then walked the walked with ADF Mobile

Chris Muir talked the talk and then walked the walked with Oracle ADF Mobile.

Applications UX was mixing it up with the crowd at InSync12 too, showing off cool mobile UX solutions, using iPads to gather feedback on future UX designs and innovations from conference attendees, and engaging with EBS, JD Edwards, and PeopleSoft apps customers and partners. User conferences such as InSync12 are an important part of our Oracle Applications UX user-centered design process, giving real apps users the opportunity to make real inputs and a way for us to watch and to listen to their needs and wants and get views on current and emerging UX too.

While in Melbourne, I also visited impressive Oracle partner, Callista for a major ADF and UX pow-wow, and was the er, star of a very proactive event hosted by another partner Park Lane Information Technology (coordinated by Bambi Price (@bambiprice) of ODTUG) where I explained what UX is about, and how partner and customers can engage, participate and deploy that Applications UX scientific insight to advantage for their entire business.

I also paired up with Oracle Australia in Sydney to visit key customers while there, and back at Oracle in Melbourne I spoke with sales consultants and account managers about regional opportunities and UX strategy, and came away with an understanding of what makes the Oracle market tick in Australia.

Mobile worker solution development and user experience is hot news in Australia, and this was a great opportunity to team up with Chris Muir and show how the alignment of the twin stars of UX design patterns and ADF technology enables developers to make great-looking, usable apps that really sparkle. Our UX design patterns--or functional (UI) patterns, to use the developer world language--means that developers now have not only a great tool set to build apps on Oracle ADF/FMW but proven, tested usability solutions to solve common problems they can apply in the IDE too.

In all, a whirlwind UX visit, packed with events and delivery opportunities, and all too short a time in the wonderful city of Melbourne. I need to get back there soon! For those who need a reminder, there's a website explaining how to get involved with, and participate in, Applications User Experience (including the Oracle Usability Advisory Board) events and programs.

Thank you to AUSOUG, Quest, InSync, Callista, Park Lane IT, everyone at Oracle Australia, Chris Muir, and all the other people who came together to make this a productive visit.

Stay tuned for more UX developments and engagements in the region on the Oracle VoX blog and Usable Apps website too!

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.

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 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!

Monday Jul 09, 2012

Schmelp Portal, Help Portal: Oracle Fusion Applications Help Online

Yes, the Oracle Fusion Applications Help (or "Help Portal" to us insiders) is now available. Click the link fusionhelp.oracle.com and check it out! Built using Oracle Application Development Framework components.

Oracle Fusion Applications Help user interface

Oracle Fusion Applications Help user interface

If you're developing your own help for Fusion Apps, then you can use the newly published Oracle Fusion Help User Interface Guidelines to understand the best usage. These guidelines are also a handy way to get to the embedded help design patterns for Oracle Fusion Applications, now also available.

To customize and extend the help content itself no longer requires the engagement of your IT Department or expensive project work. Customers can now use the Manage Custom Help capability to edit or add whatever content they need, make it secure and searchable, and develop a community around it too. You can see more of that capability in this slideshare.net presentation from UKOUG Ireland 2012 about the Oracle Fusion Applications User Assistance and Support Ecosystem by Ultan O'Broin and Richard Bingham.

Manage Custom Help capability

Manage Custom Help capability

To understand the science and craft that went into the creation and delivery of the "Help Portal" (cardiac arrests all round in Legal and Marketing Depts), then check out this great white paper by Ultan O'Broin and Laurie Pattison: Putting the User into Oracle Fusion Applications User Assistance.

So, what's with this "Help Portal" name? Well, that's an internal (that is, internal to Oracle) name only and we should all really call it by the correct product listing name: Oracle Fusion Applications Help. To be honest, I don't care what you call it as long as it is useful. However, these internal names can be problematic when talking with support or the licensing people. For years, we referred casually to the Oracle Applications Help or Oracle Applications Help System that ships with the Oracle E-Business Suite products as "iHelp". Then, somebody went and bought Siebel.

Game over.

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...

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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