User Experience: It’s How You Work, Not Just How You Click
Author: Patañjali S. Venkatacharya, User Experience Architect – Oracle Applications User Experience
Revised: January 20, 2010
First published: September 22, 2008
Usability. Ease of use. Look and feel. Simplicity. User interface. GUI. Human/computer interface. Great-looking icons.
These are just some of the phrases that probably come to mind when you think about user experience. But what is user experience
really all about, and what are we doing at Oracle to make our products easier to use?
Productivity Is Key
At Oracle, user experience is not just about that shiny new user interface—it’s about improving end-user productivity. It’s about first understanding how someone really gets a job done, and how Oracle can embrace the reality in which they work and then design applications that actually make the work more efficient, easier, and more productive.
Customers at recent usability feedback sessions agreed that Oracle’s commitment to developing applications and technologies that are intuitive, logical, and based on real-world feedback comes through in the company’s finished products.
“What I dislike about salesforce.com the most is that just to get a phone number, you have to go through four different screens. It’s a pain. This new Oracle user experience is cool,” says a salesforce.com user.
Adds another user, “This is much, much more intuitive than our ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems.”
Overall, customers appreciated the care Oracle takes to recognize customer input. “We feel like our needs are being listened to—we’re being included in the solution, ” one customer said.
The Art and Science of the User Experience
So if user experience is not just about cool-looking icons or fewer clicks, what kind of effort does it really take to design a next-generation enterprise application suite?
Jeremy Ashley, vice president of Oracle Applications User Experience, offers insights about the unique processes Oracle uses to create new applications for customers.
“We have more than 130 user experience professionals around the world working on the design of our enterprise applications,” Ashley said. “They include ethnographers—folks with PhD’s in social anthropology or cognitive psychology, folks who actually go out and live with our customers for several weeks, observing and building a deep understanding of how people do their jobs in the workplace, in a conference call in their cars, and accessing their work and connecting with their colleagues after they put the kids to bed at night.”
“We understand that doing your job is not just about working at your desktop all day—it’s also about all those other things that happen throughout the day as we go about doing our jobs, from random hallway conversations where we gain new insights, to late-night Web conferences, and BlackBerry instant-messages where we collaborate and share with people from across the country or around the world,” Ashley said.
The ethnographers then bring all of their observations and notes into state-of-the-art labs. Oracle has more than 15,000 square feet of highly sophisticated all-digital usability labs worldwide, 18 labs in seven locations, where design engineers, advanced human/computer-interaction architects, and visualization experts analyze data to better understand customers’ wants and needs.
The team then works together with customers to develop prototypes, test, retest, and refine application designs until they get it just right. Throughout this process, customers come from around the world to participate in thousands of hours of evaluation and testing, using industry-standard methodologies—all before a single line of code is written and released in a product.
Ashley said more than 800 customers are involved in Oracle’s UX Customer Participation Program, and the list is growing daily.
There are many great ways to learn more about Oracle’s unique applications user experience organization, its processes, and its results. Learn how to get involved in Oracle's usability programs.