Oracle Usable Apps | Applications User Experience Simplicity, mobility, extensibility
Getting the Most from an Oracle Self-Service Application

Author: Joe Dumas, Oracle Applications User Experience
Revised: February 19, 2010
First published: March 16, 2009

With self-service software applications, such as a Web site on which employees look up health benefits, customers expect to be able to “walk up and use” the software without training, assistance from a manual, or help from a fellow worker.  If customers can’t accomplish their tasks the first time with a self-service application, they often give up quickly when they encounter difficulties.

In contrast, the expectation about a more complex “walk up and learn” application is different. For example, customers learning to use an application to query a database and generate reports will expect to receive some training, and it may take some time to master  the more complicated application.

Illustration and Photograph by Eric Stilan and Martin Taylor, Oracle Applications User Experience

Designing an effective self-service application is a unique challenge. The Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) team uses a set of user interface design guidelines specifically targeted toward that type of application. For example, a customer should not be required to understand either the business rules or any back-end processing done by the application. Furthermore, the user interface must display clear and simple prompts and instructions, avoiding jargon and abbreviations. The opening screen should make it clear how to start, and subsequent screens should indicate the next step. Following each step, there should be clear feedback that progress is being made toward the goal of the task.

Evaluating Usability

When Oracle self-service applications are under development, special methods are applied to evaluate their usability. Typical customers are asked to come to one of Oracle’s usability labs to use the application under the supervision of a UX team member.

The customers are asked to perform tasks with the application, or a prototype of it, while the team member watches and records the results. The team member is careful not to provide any information to the customer about how the application works, and asks the customer to perform the task as if he or she were using it alone. The team member records several measures as the customer works. Errors made by the customer or the need for assistance from the team member are especially important to note in a self-service application, because they reveal a weakness in the design. When a customer cannot perform a basic task the first time, the design needs to be changed.

The UX team member then summarizes the data from several sessions with customers and makes recommendations for design changes. The recommendations and the best way to implement them are discussed with the full development team. After changes are made, the new design is retested to see if it meets the demands of a self-service application. It is ironic that while self-service applications are simpler to use, they are difficult to design well, but with the help of the UX team, Oracle is prepared for that challenge.



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