Oracle Usable Apps | Applications User Experience Simplicity, mobility, extensibility
   
 
 
Simplified User Interface in Oracle Fusion Applications Fronts Oracle Cloud Offerings

Simplicity, mobility, and extensibility set tone for next-generation user experiences

Kathy Miedema

Author: Kathy Miedema, Oracle Applications User Experience
July 23, 2013


 

The next evolution of the Oracle user experience—the simplified user interface for Oracle Applications Cloud—embraces three themes that are increasingly important for today’s productive users: simplicity, mobility, and extensibility.

The innovative design of the simplified user interface relies on elegantly simple designs, smooth transitions to mobile platforms, and easy opportunities for tailoring.

Innovation has long been a hallmark of the Oracle Applications User Experience team. Jeremy Ashley, Vice President of Oracle Applications User Experience, said people often think that innovation means producing something new. But, he said, “the first step of innovation is understanding the material you are using.”

That’s why, when figuring out the fastest path to market for new user experiences, Ashley and his team look at what Oracle has already built in Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle Fusion Applications, and acquired products.

 “What you do with it is the key thing,” Ashley said about the existing hardware and software under the Oracle umbrella. “Understanding that, as opposed to building something new, is innovation.” 

Photo by Anne-Marie McReynolds,
Oracle Applications User Experience


Kristin Desmond, Director of User Experience, and Oracle Applications User Experience Vice President Jeremy Ashley review a demo on tailoring in the new simplified user interface during a recent expo event.

An evolving Oracle User Experience for an evolving workforce

For the Oracle Applications User Experience team, understanding the workforce that its products aim to serve and what these workers need has always been the cornerstone of its initiatives.

“We are deeply engaged with customers and users to understand what is important to them,” Ashley said. About the way Oracle builds its user experience, Ashley said, “We have a standard here that other people have to rise to.”

At Oracle, UX is a strategic initiative, said Misha Vaughan, director of the Apps UX Communication and Outreach team. “We’re investing on a global level here,” she said.

According to Ashley, his user experience team follows these general principles: “We identify a problem, follow certain steps, simplify how to resolve the issue, and provide a simple path to resolution.” The simplified user interface, with its modern user experience themes of simplicity, mobility, and extensibility, exemplifies these principles.

The simplified user interface was built using existing Oracle Fusion Applications functionality provided by Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) in Oracle Fusion Middleware, so it inherits the full functionality of Oracle Fusion Applications—security, metadata, single sign-on, and other benefits of the Oracle Fusion tech stack. But the most common tasks have been decanted, with the simplified user interface layer on top.

“This is a user interface that anyone can use.”
– Jeremy Ashley,
Vice President, Oracle Applications User Experience

The tasks that are surfaced and highlighted in the simplified user interface represent the 10 percent of tasks that 90 percent of people are doing 90 percent of the time. The Applications User Experience team calls that the 10-90-90 rule, and it has guided all simplified user interface development.

“This is a user interface that anyone can use,” said Ashley. “This is the next evolution of [Oracle] Fusion, and this evolution has adapted to changes in how people work,” Ashley said. “The change has been about moving across devices, but still maintaining the full power of [Oracle] Fusion, using a light touch for frequent tasks.”

The simplified user interface is available using any modern browser on devices with screens 7 inches or larger with a resolution of at least 1024x768, from the tablet to the desktop.

The user roles in Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Base Cloud Service and Oracle Customer Experience (Sales) Cloud are the first to take advantage of the simplified user interface. More use cases are in the pipeline, and a simplified user interface for many roles across the enterprise pillars of HCM, customer relationship management (CRM), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) is under development.
Ashley says the simplified user interface is built for users who want to get on with their jobs, as well as for companies that want to avoid massive navigation and training.

This is the simplified user interface springboard in Oracle HCM Cloud, from where you can enter various functional areas within the simplified user interface.
Employees can come to the simplified user interface, and with no training, complete the most frequently performed tasks—easily, quickly, and on any device and then move to the desktop interface to accomplish deeper tasks, Ashley said. The simplified user interface “navigates you directly to where you need to go.”

Employees can do many of the most common tasks easily, quickly, and on any device using the simplified user interface, moving into the desktop user interface for the more intensive tasks needed to run the company.

Modern user experience themes and the cloud

The user experience themes of simplicity, mobility, and extensibility are behind all of Oracle’s next-generation user experiences in development.

Simplicity: “When you look at our apps … it should be very apparent what you are looking at. It should be very apparent why it would be useful to a particular role,” said Ashley.

“We are making sure we are getting the right thing and presenting it in the simplest possible way. We give users less to learn and more opportunity to do their work. Our design is very approachable, touchable.”

This screenshot shows the Team Talent functional area within the Oracle HCM Cloud simplified user interface. Note that the springboard menu now appears across the top of the screen.

Ashley said the iPhone provides an example of the principle of simplicity in the consumer world. The design of the iPhone does not expose its power in an obvious way, “but it’s presenting the user experience in a way that anyone can use that power effortlessly,” Ashley said. “The user knows what to do to get what they want.”

With this type of user experience, Apple actually becomes an advocate for the user, who is then happy to allow the company to make user experience decisions for them. “You know they are making the best decision possible with their designs. You want to be part of that,” he said.

Mobility: Applications are no longer about the device, Ashley said. Mobile technology, ubiquitous connections, high-quality display, and good batteries have all contributed to changing the reliability and flexibility of our work machines, as well as enabling mobility in the work life.

As an example, Ashley said, many of us can now sit down at a coffee shop and watch a movie on Netflix, or conduct a video conference with a relative in another country at any time from our machines.

With cloud services, users are no longer restricted to or reliant on a particular device, Ashley added. Users can put their data into the cloud and get that data back out on any device. We can take a device with us on a trip, but we don’t need to bring the whole hard drive. “Information is where I am at the time. I don’t have to go anywhere or use any particular device to get that information,” Ashley said. “Constraints are lifted. That gives me greater flexibility to do my job.”

This shows the Contacts functional area within the Oracle Sales Cloud simplified user interface.

Mobile technology, from smart phone to tablets to laptops, also enables users to connect with their work life from almost anywhere. A ubiquitous connection, which allows capabilities such as texting, provides next-door levels of communication regardless of location, with a communications channel that’s always on. Employees can get questions answered quickly and can make more informed decisions quickly because they have direct and perhaps even constant communication with information that enables them to do their jobs.

High-quality displays mean that a user can now collect information and create extensive digital repositories, Ashley said. With any computing device, a user can get density and clarity by taking a bird’s-eye view and then zooming in on a particular location for more precision, such as one might do with a map. That type of display rivals the far less compact print media and is targeted in a meaningful way for the user.

Extensibility: Ashley said that the Applications User Experience team is taking note of the increasing demand for extensibility in applications.

“Customers have business needs we can’t put in the final product,” he said. To further complicate matters, businesses may be using different tools to tailor their applications. And when an upgrade is needed, those extensions may not translate well.

“We want to recognize that these kinds of things should be simple and direct,” Ashley said. To continue to build on the Oracle user experience, even when Oracle isn’t doing the building, the Applications User Experience team is providing customers with libraries of common fields, features, and such that they can choose to hide or show rather than build.

“We want customers to be mindful of how they do extensions and the tools they use,” Ashley said. To help retain the Oracle user experience, even in the face of necessary extensions or tailoring, the Applications User Experience team partners with customers to help them build what they need. This is where extensibility enhancements in the Oracle user experience play a role.

Tailoring capabilities in the simplified user interface enable users to easily update the visual appearance of the interface.
Extensibility has one goal, Ashley said: successful implementation for customers. So not only does the Applications User Experience team provide the ability to easily tailor applications with the simplified user interface using composers for the business analyst, but also the team provides guidance for more complex extensions through its UX Direct program.

Customers and partners of Oracle Fusion Applications can also find a library of its user experience design patterns and guidelines on www.oracle.com/usableapps. These design patterns are reusable solutions to common usability challenges that enable designers and developers to build the same modern and compelling experience found in Oracle Fusion Applications.

This collection of design patterns, which will soon extend to include the design patterns used to build the simplified user interface, comprises common designs that are built to accommodate requirements that have been identified by the industry as best practices and have been proven by real users in Oracle’s usability labs.

According to Ashley, in order to retain the Oracle user experience, you need to be serious about what you are asking for when you tailor your application. Design carefully with the user experience in mind so that training doesn’t increase for the user, he said. “It should be at least no more difficult than the system the customers have at the moment.”

The next round of innovation

Passion drives the user experience themes of simplicity, mobility, and extensibility. But this passion is supported by extensive research that aims to keep improving the productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness for Oracle’s users through a well-designed user experience.

You can keep reading about what the Applications User Experience team is working on by tuning into our communication channels. We are at the forefront of Oracle’s future user experiences, and we can often give you a glimpse of what’s coming.

• Learn more about our partner workshops and show-and-tell events on the Voice of User Experience, or VoX, blog.

• See what we’re showing and how you can participate in our customer feedback sessions at OpenWorld 2013.

Take a lab tour to get early demonstrations of new user experiences before they’re released.

Sign up for our newsletter to see where we are speaking next or running an on-site lab at a user group conference.

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