Strategic design philosophy pushes Oracle cloud user experience
to lofty new heights
By Kathy Miedema, Oracle Applications User Experience
Simplicity, mobility, and extensibility continue to be driving themes behind the Oracle user experience, but a more focused design philosophy is also pushing the Oracle user experience. You can see the first examples of that philosophy taking shape in the simplified user interface (UI) of Oracle Applications Cloud Release 8, which became generally available in March 2014.
Jeremy Ashley, Vice President of the Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) team, describes the approach to design as “glance, scan, commit.” Building in stepped levels of interaction with an applications UI is an idea at the forefront of many projects that the Oracle Applications User Experience team is working on.
The possible devices a customer may use also play a big role in the direction of the ultimate design.
Whether you are using a smartphone to check email, a tablet to review your calendar for the day, or a desktop to complete a more complicated task will determine how your workflow goes — and how productive you can be.
In the coming generations of enterprise applications, the cloud is actually the common platform, Ashley said. “The devices we use determine how we pull information from that platform. Information architecture becomes key in pulling that data down from the cloud to your device,” he added. This is where user experience design is very important.
Our mobile devices and a need for simplicity are behind this continued evolution of the Oracle user experience design philosophy. The sharper focus on “glance, scan, commit” as a way to design for a mobile, productive workforce has broadened the footprint of simplified UI for Release 8 and upcoming releases.
In Release 8, for example, simplified UI provides more for various user roles in Oracle HCM Cloud and Oracle Sales Cloud; new analytics and infolets help users get to the information they need; and an increased ability to extend and customize easily means you don’t have to be an IT manager to make certain changes to your UI.
What is ‘glance, scan, commit’?
The idea behind “glance, scan, commit” is that we look at something in layers, Ashley said. He has a few favorite metaphors he uses when he describes this design philosophy. At the top of the list is one that compares the approach to going shopping for clothes.
How does this translate to enterprise software?
Simplified UI, which was designed by the Applications User Experience team for mobile devices with a 10-inch screen size and above, and first rolled out with Release 7 in September 2013, offers the best examples of the “glance, scan, commit” design philosophy.
At the heart of the “glance, scan, commit” philosophy is the infolet. When a user picks up a tablet and looks at the simplified UI in the Oracle Applications Cloud, he might start with the springboard, then tap the icons for a glance at the top level of information pertinent to his role. We call these small containers of information infolets. He takes a quick look at the information to see if he’s interested in anything. He just wants to know if he needs to interact, Ashley said.
If something catches his eye, the user then scans the information presented to him in a more targeted infolet. This container of information, designed with carefully considered information architecture to fit a particular platform like that tablet the user is working on, still requires light interaction, Ashley said.
In scan mode, the user might click to the next level of information, but he is merely clicking to get more information, Ashley explained. He wants to understand the situation, or maybe even to perform a quick action, such as an approval. He is taking a few seconds to find out a little more or take care of something that needs to be done.
If the user sees the need to complete a more complex task, he may head to a richer, more comprehensive experience. He’s decided to commit at this point, and he’s using the system to do his job.
In the scope of the “glance, scan, commit” design philosophy, simplified UI not only provides the information you need to know at a glance with scaled infolets, but it offers a gateway directly to the part of the application you need to use, when you need to use it.
“Simplified UI keeps users at the glance/scan level, and only sends them down the path toward commit when they have a particular business process that needs to be done in the more comprehensive application,” Ashley said.
Examples in Release 8
Infolets on the dashboard in Oracle Sales Cloud Release 8 offer the best generally available example of the “glance, scan, commit” design philosophy in action.
Each of the infolets in Figure 1 provides a pathway down to the next level of interaction. We might see a number that catches our eye, Ashley said. We click on it, and at the next level, we see more detailed information that we can scan. “This is actually a work area,” Ashley said. “The idea is to provide a summary with the information a user needs to follow up.”
If the user decides to dig a little deeper, he is thinking about committing to working on the task before him. He can take the next action, which might be clicking on a revenue column, then clicking on a detail that provides more information and perhaps even requires a decision.
The user may then move into “edit” mode and complete a transaction. At this point, he has committed to following through with this task, Ashley said. He has scanned the summary of available information, and determined that he needs to follow up and take the next action. So he might go to the next level, and complete a transaction or make a decision based on the details he has seen so far.
Building out the “glance, scan, commit” design philosophy offers a way for users to work more efficiently. In Oracle Sales Cloud, managers have greater visibility, and sales employees have analytics that give them information across a deal. Through the extensibility framework built into simplified UI, companies have the ability to customize what they see so that only information important to their business process is shown.
And all of the data is integrated with the cloud, which has become the common platform, Ashley said. The device the user is working on only matters in the sense that the infolets are constructed based on the information architecture that best fits the device the user is holding. If it’s a smartphone, he is likely to be checking something quickly, and the information delivered is designed to reflect that. If it’s a tablet, he may want to dig in a bit deeper. If he needs to perform something complicated, he may move to a desktop, and the design is comprehensive and rich with detail.
The #1 objective behind the philosophy and the use of carefully designed infolets is to make sure that users can be productive as quickly as possible, Ashley said. “We want users to quickly understand and know where to go,” he said. “See your status, click to get more information, then commit to the task and go.”
Where will infolets take the Oracle user experience?
The Apps UX team continues its research on users and how to best apply the “glance, scan, commit” philosophy to evolve the Oracle user experience in the Oracle Applications Cloud. Infolets will continue to be a big part of that by showing the information you need, depending on your role, as well as providing the ability to dive in when that makes more sense.
Ashley said most users don’t need to go all the way into an application every time they commit to completing a task, and this is the foundation of the design of simplified UI. The simplified user experience for mobile workers arose from what Ashley calls the 10-90-90 rule, where the tasks that are surfaced and highlighted in the simplified UI represent the 10 percent of tasks that 90 percent of people are doing 90 percent of the time.
Instead of providing just one level of interaction, Ashley said that using “glance, scan, commit” offers users three levels of interaction in simplified UI. Infolets help users deal with data by pushing up the information they need to know to the top of the pyramid of data.
Infolets, no matter the device they appear on, contain all of the same information, Ashley pointed out. However, customers can build different containers for that information. Ashley said this is the extensibility component of the Oracle user experience, and more information about that is available on Usable Apps.
What Ashley wants customers to realize is that the Oracle Applications User Experience team is making regular, incremental improvements.
“We understand how people work,” he said. We know, based on our research, what users do and where they need to go in an application. Oracle user experience designs reflect that deep knowledge and investment in the user experience.