Oracle Usable Apps | Applications User Experience Simplicity, mobility, extensibility
   
 
Customer Role: How User Experience Research Is Conducted
 
Before, During, and After a Customer Feedback Session

Author: Teena Singh, Principal Product Manager, Oracle Applications User Experience
Revised: Mar. 18, 2009
First published: Feb. 9, 2009




The Oracle Applications User Experience team traveled to Birmingham, England, to conduct onsite product usability tests in December 2008 at the UK Oracle User Group Conference (UK OUG). We knew many European customers would be at the conference and thought it would be a great opportunity to get feedback on Oracle’s latest Human Capital Management (HCM) user interface designs.

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Photographs by Teena Singh, Oracle Applications User Experience

Nathan Percival, an HR System Manager who works for Société Générale, prepares to begin his first usability test during the UKOUG conference in Birmingham, England, in December 2008.

Members of the Oracle team conducted 25 sessions. We scheduled the onsite usability tests in advance, as we knew customers would be busy attending conference and keynote sessions. Each of the test participants was screened to satisfy specific user profiles – human resources application administrators, HR generalists, payroll managers, and line managers – to test the prototypes that we were bringing to the conference.

During the one-hour testing sessions, each participant completed real-world tasks by clicking through a prototype that simulated a software application. Managers evaluated their talent pool, payroll managers looked at statements of earning, and human resources application administrators set up jobs and positions. During each of the sessions, users provided feedback on the designs, while the Oracle team listened and took notes.

One user who provided feedback on the “Jobs and Positions” setup flow was Nathan Percival, an HR System Manager who works for Société Générale. He said he had never participated in a customer feedback session before the conference. We interviewed him both before and after his usability test to compare his preconceived expectations and his actual experience.

Before the Feedback Session

Oracle: Can you tell me a bit about what you do in your job?
Nathan: I work for Société Générale, the largest retail bank in France. I work in the U.K. for the Investment Banking arm. We have about 4,500 employees in the U.K. We run 8.8 PeopleSoft now, and we have been a PeopleSoft shop for about 10 years. I have been with the company for 6 years. I sit within the IT department, so I look after all things PeopleSoft HR. We have about 90 HR users in the U.K., and have 17 European countries as well outside of France that also use the same system.

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Oracle Principal Usability Engineer Sean Rice, left, listens as Nathan Percival provides feedback on an Oracle software application.

Oracle: What do you do on a daily basis?
Nathan: Everything HR comes to me. The HR staff comes to me and says, “Today's problem is this, and what can we do about it?” It may be looking at a bit of functionality we don’t already use or configuring the system for the team. We also get involved if HR data is needed in reports. We also manage interfaces with other applications  – everything from implementing new functionality, minor customizations, to completely writing interfaces to other systems.

Oracle: Have you ever completed a usability test before?
Nathan: No.

Oracle: What do you think a usability test is?
Nathan: I don't know. I have an idea that you are going to show me stuff and I am going to say whether it's a good idea or not. I am going to tell you how usable it is. I am guessing it’s going to be around new ideas, whether I think the new features have value or not.

During the Feedback Session

“It’s different than a demo, where someone shows you the application and then asks what you think about it. Having the user do things in the system is a much better way.”
– Nathan Percival, HR System Manager,
Société Générale

Oracle: Our team is called the User Experience team. What do you think User Experience is?
Nathan: I would see it as the all-encompassing way the user interacts with the application – all the way from how a user signs into the system, how a user completes a transaction, to how they manipulate data in the system. Overall, I see it as what a user thinks about the whole system.

After Providing Feedback

Oracle: What did you think of your usability session?
Nathan: It was good. Very interesting. I had not much of a previous chance to see Fusion. It was cool to see what it looks like and what the differences are and how the interface works. Yeah …very interesting.

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Nathan Percival appears relaxed and enlightened after his first usability test with Oracle.

Oracle: Was the usability test what you thought it would be?
Nathan: Pretty much. I hadn't envisioned having a list of specific things to do. Actually, that was quite good, because it really forced me to interact with the system. It's different than a demo, where someone shows you the application and then asks what you think about it. Having the user do things in the system is a much better way. It's nice, as well, to be able to feel as if you are giving feedback on a fairly detailed level. There are a lot of mechanisms to provide feedback in this kind of setting. Often, when you are working day-to-day, you think it would be nice to have an added piece of functionality. You never really feel like you can sit down and write e-mail to Oracle to ask for that or to mention the little things that drive you mad … like scrolling or how it drives you mad to have to click on a button every time to make something happen. Within the customer feedback sessions, there are a lot of opportunities to give detailed feedback and mention the little things that make a difference when you use the application.  Essentially, you get to explain how you would like to see the application while you are using it.

Oracle: Any final comments?
Nathan: I would definitely be happy to come again!

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