Sunday May 13, 2012

Mobile Geolocation Check-in Apps Text Style Notes

My research notes on the language style used by mobile geolocation-based check-in 'n' challenge apps, foursquare, Google Latitude, SCVNGR, and Yelp are available for download. Based on my field usage of the apps, this technical communications research brain dump is for you to make of it what you will and go in peace.

foursquare, Yelp, SCVNGR

Left to right: foursquare, Yelp, and SCVNGR screens

It’s apparent from this little distraction that, with the notable exception of the active voice and references to “you”, most of the remaining styles would fail the checks in operation by enterprise applications QA teams.

For such an informal, casual, or conversational style to ‘work’ for apps users, the context of use (who, what, where, when, with) is critical. This style of language, with a little bit of common sense applied, is acceptable to a range of user profiles in the enterprise world performing mobile tasks in CRM, for example. Enterprise apps users now navigate their world of work with a user experience (UX) influenced by the demands of BYOD, Facebook-driven globalization, Globish, and the consumerization of information technology.

What is listed in my document require some nuance to be acceptable to a wider range of users, as personal appeal, energy and edge leverages users’ motivations and goals while delighting them during use. Some of the more outré messages and cultural references would need changing, sure, but there is nothing in the source that could not be customized or localized. Consider it another form of affective or "emotional" user assistance.

I had the opportunity to write some such text for a check-in and challenge app recently. It’s not easy. What did I learn?


  • Research language style and grammar in context (use the mobile apps yourself in a sort of self-reflecting ethnography similar to the "going native" work done by the Oracle Applications Mobile UX team). My research was done in the Starbucks on the streets and airport terminals of Atlanta, Dublin, Geneva, and London, using Google Nexus S and iPhone devices with multiple user accounts.
  • Design with real text and not lorem ipsum text placeholders. To begin, write something, anything, that reflects the required UX, and revise it after some review and testing. Read Getting Real about this (a thoroughly recommend book all over for web apps UX).
  • When writing text you need to have context, such as a description of the check-in, when it happens, and what happens around it (do you need to congratulate on this achievement and extort to the next one too?, for example), a visual of the check-in badge or challenge details, and so on. Access to design materials, wireframes, prototypes, or beta versions makes writing a lot easier and innovation cycles shorter.
  • Throw your existing style guide out the window. Write a user conversation instead.

Comments welcome.

Sunday Sep 19, 2010

What Do Users Want Most From User Assistance? Affirmation and Confirmation

Matthew Ellison, at the UA Europe 2010 conference, presented some fascinating results from a user assistance research project undertaken with the University of Portsmouth (full details will be in the December 2010 issue of Communicator magazine).

What users wanted most (47%) was affirmation and confirmation types of user assistance. This is almost twice what they wanted of the "How do I...?" stuff. Naturally, there are always some caveats that come into play when interpreting these kinds of findings for your own business. However, based on my own observations and Applications User Experience team research, the need to inform users in advance as to consequences of their actions, how data is used, and so on, and then confirm their actions or application responses, is broadly in line with enterprise user assistance requirements too.

In Oracle Fusion Applications user assistance, we already have writing patterns that allow us to easily write DITA-based online help topics informing users in advance about consequences of decisions. However, we also provide this information contextually within the task flow using embedded help on editable fields, warning messages, and then confirming results and actions using confirmation messages. Using embedded help and messages together like this enhances productivity as the user can immediately be informed of the consequences of their actions and then see a confirmation when done, enhancing productivity.

The Application Developer Framework (ADF) Faces component demos (available for download here) show what field-level embedded help is possible (for example, see the shortDesc property on the inputText component as shown in figure 1), as well as how warning (figure 2) and confirmation (figure 3) types of messages work (see the Messages component).

shortdesc_note_inputText.png

Figure 1: Embedded Help in Note Window on Editable Field

warning.png

Figure 2: Warning Message

confirmation.png

Figure 3: Confirmation Message

Check out the demos and just see what a rich user experience is possible!

Monday Nov 09, 2009

Welcome to the User Assistance Experience

In this blog, I'll cover all sorts of issues relating to what we call "user assistance" in Oracle Apps - messages (all sorts, errors, warnings, and more), embedded help, and nonembedded help, demos, and more and how users collaborate with each other to help themselves. I'll focus especially on the design and deployment of user assistance, and how is relates to user experience in general.

For now you might like to check out a recent usableapps posting about the use of writing patterns.

PatternDiagram-.jpg

This is just one of the exciting approaches that Oracle uses to the design of user assistance components.

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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