Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mobile for business users

As I mentioned in a previous blog, Oracle Fusion Apps breaks with Oracle's past in the sense that the user interaction is built from a user perspective. Rather than exposing a datamodel or a business process to the user, they have designed the user interface based on information they have gathered about their user. Their website tells this compelling story, go check it out (after finishing this blog ;).

The world goes mobile

These days you can't just design for the desktop anymore. People use other devices like tablets and mobile phones and these devices are showing up in the workplace more and more. On top of that, people are working from different locations: from the office, from home, en route, or wherever they happen to be. This creates a new challenge when creating services or application. Take for example a HR self service application or an expense report application. Employees expect this functionality to be available everywhere, and on all devices.
At the other hand, organizations are struggling with the application of 'apps'. When I started programming, every piece of software had to have an API. Then the world realized that you want to integrate systems in heterogeneous landscapes and every piece of software needed to have a 'service interface'. Now that we have apps, every piece of software I realize needs to have a REST API so that people can create an app for that. The problem with this approach is that creating a service interface on every piece of software does not create a good service oriented architecture and creating a mobile interface for every piece of software does not create a good mobile user experience for your customers, employees and partners. So how should you approach this?

Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience Patterns and Guidelines 

The ADF User Experience patterns and guidelines site is a very good starting point for organizations that want to start using mobile for their applications. The site has four sections:
  1. Design guidelines. This section explains that mobile design differs from designing for desktops. It  then states 10 mobile design guidelines. The most important ones are at the top: know your user and define the essential mobile task
  2. Know your user is a separate section that talks about getting to know your user. You have to revisit your idea of your user and determine who will use your application on a mobile device and in what context this will happen. Creating personas is a very good technique that you can apply. The site has some references to this technique at the bottom. 
  3. Create a mobile task flow. This section explains how your mobile tasks fit in the overall business process. Unfortunately this section is rather short and uses flow charting to show the flow in the user interface, and not the overall business process. It is very important that the business process and the (mobile) user interaction that is designed from the perspective of the user are aligned: otherwise you get into trouble with rules and regulations that exist in your organization for the business process that people are accessing using their mobile device.
  4. Mobile design patterns. Users may not be used to using mobile applications for work, they use it at home and in their personal lives all the time. So using patterns that people are familiair with is important. You as a developer doesn't have to re-invent the wheel when creating the mobile tasks and your users are happy because the application works the way they expect. This will save money because there will less calls to the helpdesk, less errors and your application will actually be used ;)

OBUG Connect

Ultan Ó Broin and me will present some mobile design patterns that are defined in the process of designing mobile applications for Fusion apps at OBUG connect 2013, this afternoon. We will explain the importance of patterns and show some of the patterns that can be built with either ADF Mobile, or the native platform of a device.

Next: apply!

The next step is that projects start using these techniques to built user interaction for professional users, like we have been doing for consumer software for a long time. It is time that professionals get the user experience they deserve and need to be productive and happy while doing their job!

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