Friday Dec 14, 2012

How to Build Your Own Siri App In a Browser

This post from Applications User Experience team co-worker Mark Vilrokx (@mvilrokx) about building your own Siri-style voice app in a browser using Rails, Chrome, and WolframAlpha is so just good you've now got it thrice!


Input field with microphone icon

I love these kind of How To posts. They not only show off innovation but inspire others to try it out too. Love the sharing of the code snippets too. Hat tip to Jake at the AppsLab (and now on board with the Applications UX team too) for picking up the original All Things Rails blog post.




Oracle Voice and Nuance demo on the Oracle Applications User Experience Usable Apps YouTube channel.

Mark recently presented on Oracle Voice at the Oracle Usability Advisory Board on Oracle Voice and Oracle Fusion Applications and opened customers and partners eyes to how this technology can work for their users in the workplace and what's coming down the line!

Great job, Mark.

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.

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!

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.

Thursday Jan 12, 2012

Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development--Made Simple: Review and Opportunity

The holidays are a great time to catch up on required reading. I’ve just finished reading Sten Vesterli’s (@stenvesterli) book Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development--Made Simple.

Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development--Made Simple

This is a super book about the Oracle Application Developer Framework (ADF) using with the (recommended) Oracle JDeveloper IDE, communicated in plain language and easy-to-read style. Suitable for novice and experts with web development or Oracle Forms background, the book is written very much from the “let’s see great software running now” perspective.

All the essentials are there: the concepts behind ADF, the nuts and bolts of the components, and great how-to technical execution stuff. This is blended with valuable process insights and best practices right across the application development lifecycle, such as a proof of concept phase, planning, estimating effort, assembling a team, testing, deployment, and so on. Sten also includes information on how Oracle used ADF to create Oracle Fusion Applications. Take a look inside the book.

Of special note is a chapter on internationalization (i18n) and localization (L10n), something I am always relieved--if not delighted--to see, given my technology globalization interests. The market for Oracle applications is global and ADF has superb baked-in i18n and L10n capabilities: BiDi-enabled components using Start and End properties (instead of left and right), externalized text in resource bundles, hard-coding checks, XLIFF support, and so on.

Sten also brings usability into the application development process, with information on the importance of design (see the YouTube video below about the ADF Faces Rich Client Visio stencils provided by Oracle) and adding usability expertise to the team. This is a critical aspect to the success of any developed product or implementation (ADF-based, or otherwise). We (Oracle, working with partners and customers) continually up the Oracle apps community’s level of usability awareness and know-how that leads to successful outcomes for system implementors and consulting teams. We also curate customer and partner insights and experiences for the benefit of others too, notably through the Oracle Usability Advisory Board (OUAB).



UX Direct

Getting the benefits of apps usability to developers and implementors is what our UX Direct consulting service (featured at the October 2011 OUAB meeting) is about.

UX Direct

UX Direct take the superb out of the box functionality and flexibility offered by Oracle’s apps, matches it with Oracle UX expertise, and enables customers to accelerate their apps usage to the next level of user performance. You really don’t need special resources or teams to do it (but if you have them it’ll work too!), just UX Direct’s service and resources explaining usability benefits to implementors, showing how to find end users, gather their requirements and keep them engaged throughout the implementation process, what usability best practices and design resources to use, how to measure the results, and demonstrate ROI.

Using the UX Direct service's know-how and examples about Oracle apps tailoring opportunities (personalization, customization, extensibility, localization, and so on) delivers benefits of improved adoption rates, increased user productivity, lower training and support demands, and the satisfaction of knowing employees end their day happy with the app.

Develop Those Usable Apps Now

Watch out for more about the UX Direct service offerings from Oracle soon. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to read Sten’s book and take your apps to the next level of usability by using his work along with the Oracle ADF Rich Client User Interface Guidelines.

Incidentally, some folks asked me where the Browser Look and Feel (BLAF) guidelines used with the Oracle Applications Framework (OAF) for EBS are? They’re available on OTN here.

And, if you’re seriously interested in enterprise application development, then ask to join the ADF Enterprise Methodology Group (EMG) (@adf_emg) at http://groups.google.com/group/adf-methodology.

Find the comments if you’ve anything to share.

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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