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.

Wednesday Feb 22, 2012

Books for Fusion Apps Implementors and Administrators: Total Fusion Apps Experience

With Oracle Fusion Applications available, it's time for enterprises to think about business requirements and implementation plans. That means understanding how Fusion apps is developed and best managed.

Fusion apps is new, so what better way for implementors to deliver a successful project than to rely on the insight of those respected, in-demand, experts who can explain in straightforward language, and show in easy steps, how Fusion apps technology works together. Three books that do just that: Managing Oracle Fusion Applications by Richard Bingham, Quick Start Guide to Oracle Fusion Development: Oracle JDeveloper and Oracle ADF by Grant Ronald, and Oracle ADF Enterprise Application Development—Made Simple by Sten Vesterli.

What's In 'Em, Then?

Highly recommended publications for Fusion apps IT professionals, the content is of a technical nature sure, but it pivots on the role of user experience. Together, these books bring to life the concept of consumerization of IT for enterprise applications by telling you how:


  • Fusion apps offers a new standard in user experience. Based on the Applications Development Framework (ADF) and Fusion Middleware (FMW) platform, a cutting edge, action-oriented AJAX Web 2.0 UI delivers higher levels of usability for users that can be taken even further though personalization, customization and extensibility capability (aka tailoring).
  • Implementation doesn’t need new hires or expertise to work with the technology. Fusion apps is built on open standards, leveraging access to Java and XML developers.
  • Fusion apps provides scalability in use and deployment. The FMW platform, SOA, metadata services (MDS), the ADF MVC framework, and reusable UI components and design guidance, enables implementors to flexibly tailor an experience for their enterprise's needs, provide for integrations, and maintain and future-proof the investment.
  • Fusion apps really is an enterprise experience ecosystem. Implementing Fusion apps you gives you access to a whole range of Oracle management tools that integrate with a top-notch support organization. Dashboards are not just for end users.

Book by Book, Exploring Further...

Richard Bingham is an Oracle Senior Principal Technical Support Engineer and a major pacesetter when it comes to customer service. (@richardbingham) Richard tells you how to keep Fusion apps end users, decision makers, and other stakeholders happy after implementation using next generation Fusion apps manageability, a key business enabler. Richard explains the Fusion apps product and technical architecture, and covers the central roles of the business process model and the role of user experience in design (user assistance is included; more about that at UKOUG Ireland).

Setting Fusion Apps diagnostic logging verbosity level UI

Setting the Fusion Apps diagnostic logging verbosity level in the troubleshooting UI.

An ever changing dynamic, the open nature of the Fusion apps technology, SOA, flexible business process execution, and a Web 2.0 UI means that apps users and managers will have high expectations so tools are vital. So, a powerful Fusion applications life cycle model based on goals of application reliability, availability, performance, optimization, and governance is introduced by Richard and a toolbox for each area explored. These toolboxes, based on Oracle standard platform tools and the Fusion apps supportability features, can be used by existing teams and resources available to them from Oracle. Richard's checklist for the Oracle enterprise application manager and list of resources gets you going on the road to keeping all apps stakeholders sweet.

Grant Ronald is an Oracle ACE and a senior product management executive in Oracle's Application Development Tools division. His book enables you to quickly understand and create a Fusion app using the ADF and the Oracle JDeveloper IDE . Grant makes it simple for you to grasp the Fusion origins, the Java EE, SOA, and Web 2.0 technology pillars, and the MVC framework concepts behind ADF. A JDev walkthrough and you’re ready to build an ADF app, from handling data with ADF business components to using ADF DVT and other advanced UI techniques. Super, no-nonsense stuff that I tried at home and built a Fusion app in a few hours. Tip: Read the book from start to finish first; don't start by designing a UI.

Sten Vesterli (@stenvesterli) is a Fusion User Experience Advocate (FXA) and Ace Director. His book gets you going with ADF and JDev to create enterprise apps in a methodological way that makes sense for development teams. With his “let’s do it” approach, Sten tells you how to make projects successful through planning and resourcing, a proof of concept phase, and takes you through the entire development process of putting a highly usable app into the hands of users. As an FXA, Sten knows all about the Fusion Apps user experience, and this book talks about the importance of design and usability expertise. A chapter on ADF skinning tells you how to create professional look and feel to your apps along with flexibility in deploying for different audiences and another chapter on ADF localization features enables you to take your app worldwide. More information about the usefulness of this book is here.

In Conclusion...

A great set of publications of tremendous value to implementers in going about making the best decisions in how to deliver successful implementations and to show ROI. A killer combination for the Fusion apps implementor and administrator's resource library.

Oracle EBS R12.1.3 Usability Tips and Tricks Webcast

Is you missed this great webcast Usability Best Practices for Oracle E-Business Suite by Sara Woodhull, then watch out for content when it is posted online here (tip: scroll down the list).

Sara covers:


  • Top Three Ways to Improve EBS Usability
  • Why Upgrading Improves Usability
  • Personalize Oracle E-Business Suite for Maximum Usability

A must for all EBS R12 implementers and admins!

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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