Saturday Aug 10, 2013

The Feng Shui of UX: Visit the Usability Labs Yourself

Join me as I show off the Applications User Experience usability labs. The labs are part of our scientific based research into how users really work and what they want. Central to our design and testing efforts, the activities in the lab also lead to us baking in usability into Oracle ADF components so that developers can be really productive making great looking usable apps, consistently. Read more about this "Feng Shui" of Fusion UX, as Grant Ronald calls it, in the UK Oracle User Group's Oracle Scene Magazine.




If you would like to visit the labs in Redwood Shores, perhaps as part of your Oracle Open World 2013 itinerary, well go to the Usable Apps website and under the Get Involved Section use the Tour the Lab link. Or you can contact me on Twitter and I will redirect your request.

Tuesday Apr 02, 2013

UX Design Pattern Spotting with Fusion Mobile Expenses

One of the great things about demoing cool stuff for Oracle Applications User Experience is that you're entering a world of discovery of guess what? Even more cool stuff! I was showing off the Fusion Mobile Expenses app live recently and explaining how our UX Design Patterns make for developer productivity and satisfied users. A developer hand shot up in the audience and asked me to point out which patterns were being invoked as I stepped though the mobile tasks. What a super question and a great demo value-add to include in future!




Fusion Mobile Expenses video on the Usable Apps YouTube channel

You can see the patterns at work easily. Look at the rockin' Fusion Mobile Expenses video, for example, and within one minute you can see a bunch of the publicly available Mobile UX Design Patterns in action. There you have the Springboard Navigation pattern (that screen at about 19 seconds in), the Page Header and the Input Form patterns (at about 40 seconds), and so on.

Shown live, the Fusion Expenses mobile app reveals even more patterns, such as the List pattern, my favorite the Actions pattern, and others.


List and Actions Pattern


List and Actions patterns in use together in Fusion Mobile Expenses.


So, come along to my next UX outing on building great mobile apps with Oracle Applications User Experience reusable design solutions and see the patterns used and explained in context. Don't miss this opportunity by staying tuned to the events and outreach page on the Usable Apps website. I might even start giving out prizes to the audience if you can name the patterns when they come to life in the apps shown!

If you want to read more about using design patterns for mobile apps in business, then head on over to the Vennster blog.

Altogether now: "Taxi! 25 Dollars!

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.

Saturday May 26, 2012

Oracle Applications UX Gamification Worldwide All Hands Day

The Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) group recently hosted the #gamifyOracle Oracle Applications Gamification Worldwide User Experience Design Jam at the Oracle HQ in Redwood Shores, California. This was a big, fun-filled innovation day for all Applications UX members, other invited Oracle contributors (from Oracle's Education and Research Industry Business Unit, Oracle Product Support, Oracle Technology Network, and so on) and external guests from our Fusion User Experience Advocates (FXA) program. And this firestarter (as I was the one inspired to provoke him into attending through @gamifyOracle, I take responsibility for him entering into the spirit of things in such style).

Hello World developer expertise badge used during event

Would be af:HelloWorld ADF component developer expertise badge used during the gamification process. Teams obtained this badge when they had sufficient technical nous in evidence at the jam.

The event itself started with introduction to gamification--nuanced and positioned for the world of work--and then a design jam. Teams (named after various well-know game characters) of participants with mixed backgrounds and expertise were each given a business flow or task and challenged to gamify it to maximize user engagement, participation, and productivity. Tasks from the CRM, Financials, HCM, Projects and Portfolio Management, and SCM worlds of work in the office, and on the go, received the best of the insight and science treatment that Applications UX brings to Oracle, and the results were stunning. Design deliverables were UX designs (wireframes and prototypes).

The process itself was gamified using an Applications UX-developed web app made up of a team management dashboard, a leaderboard, an information board, and a UI used by event administrators to monitor and reward each team's performance (see, even the gamification is gamified in Oracle).

Admins (I was one) scored teams on their use of game principles and game components throughout the day, resulting in earned points and badges, while extra kudos could be gained by teams themselves by checking in, going the extra mile, showing out of the box style thinking, and bringing their expertise to life in their design.

Teams hard at work during the #gamifyOracle design jam.

Teams hard at work during the #gamifyOracle design jam. Photograph: Martin Taylor (@theothermartin).

A fun but productive day, as all entered into the spirit, as I went around I was impressed by the earnest nature of the UX design efforts, the sparkling output, and the eagerness of teams to compete with each other. The day was punctuated by a cool set of videos with thumping sound tracks, featuring Oracle folks talking about the role of gamification in the enterprise, and what gamification is and isn’t.

Hammering home the point about the market relevance of gamification, the final stage of the team was a Dragons Den-type scenario where each team demonstrated their concept to the collective gathering who then played the role of crowdsourced venture capitalists, using another Applications UX-developed web app to invest virtual currency (did you see what we just did there?) in each design.

Showing off gamified enterprise app flow to the ersatz venture capitalists present

Showing off a gamified enterprise app flow to the ersatz venture capitalists present. Photograph: Ultan O’Broin.

The winning team? An inspired effort from the Bowser team. And of course, it had an external member, Oracle ACE Director Edward Roske (@eroske), who had a double celebration as it was also his birthday. Proves the point about the FXA program bringing something fresh to our table (kudos to Misha Vaughan for invitations): a fresh energy, a fresh set of ideas, and a fresh perspective.

Team Bowser was the winner, and was awarded this inexpensive yet tasteful trophy.

Team Bowser was the winner, and was awarded this inexpensive yet tasteful trophy. Photograph: Edward Roske (@eroske).

In all, a great way to learn about gamification, build team spirit, and create an innovative, contemporary user experience in a very agile way. Don’t be surprised if some of these eventually come to life on your desktop or mobile device soon.

Badges to Laurie Pattison (@lsptahoe), Erika Webb (@erikanollwebb), and everyone who organized the event, and especially to the attendees, travelling from all over Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America to gamify Oracle applications.

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.

What Are Design Patterns? Proven, Reusable Usability Solutions

Just back from speaking about cross-platform design patterns at the Oracle Applications User Experience (Applications-UX) training event in Munich, Germany (March 6 and 7, 2012). The Oracle EMEA sales audience (yes, the UX Samba is worldwide) heard all about how Applications-UX research and design expertise created these building blocks for a new standard in enterprise applications user experience, how they are used by Oracle's developers, and what they mean for Oracle applications users, customers, and partners too.

What Are Design Patterns?

Design patterns are reusable user experience solutions to common problems or tasks in enterprise software. Using design patterns means our internal developers have proven, easy-to-follow design guidance implemented with Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) and Fusion Middleware (FMW) components. The development process can scale, and the result is highly usable and consistent user experiences in our apps.

We can also make those patterns available to customers and partners who take Oracle applications usability even further by creating new usable solutions when they tailor our apps. Check out these Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 10g and 11g design patterns, for example.

Design Patterns Explained

When speaking to non-UX audiences, it’s important to grab their attention early, speak in plain language, and use examples that they can relate to. In the case of design patterns, I could have told them about Christopher Alexander and A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (1977) and how design patterns became popular in software and web development. But they might not remember that or know how to apply it!

A sales audience wants to know about a competitive message about how design patterns help apps users navigate a virtual world easily, and how this knowledge can be used by to develop and extend usable apps. Using everyday examples that we are all familiar with, and adding in local flavors, gets the message across.

Item in Amazon.de shopping cart before signing in

Searching for and adding items to Amazon shopping cart before signing in.

Bahn.de web site date picker

Using a DBahn date picker to automatically selects a date in the right format.

Google maps typeahead feature in search fields

Typing add in Google Maps is faster that selecting options from a list of values or waiting for search results.

So, to help illustrate, I used the “lazy registration” (that is, you can do your shopping and sign in or create an account later) on Amazon.de, the date picker on the Deutsche Bahn web site, the typeahead feature in Google Maps destination search, and a few other well-worn patterns that we now use on the web without even thinking!

Looking forward to the next opportunity to tell the Applications-UX design pattern story and to finding local examples that work for the audience too.

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.

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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