When implementing WebCenter Content and Portal solutions for enterprise customers, the interaction that generates the most excitement is arguably the big reveal of user interface (UI) visual designs. Everyone loves to see the new UI design of their new Content or Portal solution – and why not? – it is indeed an exciting time and an important part of your product’s delivery.
That said, the UI design is but a single factor that makes up the full user experience (UX) design and without equal attention paid to the other parts, a solution will not reach its full potential. Such a product risks being shunned by the very users for whom it was developed.
What are these other parts that are so important, you may ask? In a broad sense, UX design is an umbrella that incorporates not only UI design, but also interface design, interaction design, navigation design, information architecture, and information design.
Lots of confusing terms, right? A simple way to think of it is that UI design is the “look” in “look-and-feel.” The rest is the “feel.” If things feel wrong with the end product, users may not use it, efficiency may be impacted, or effectiveness limited.
The good news is that Oracle takes care of the information architecture for us. Sure, we’ll have custom fields if needed, but the structural design for the content is in place out of the box.
If we have portlets that need to do things, like register user feedback, for example, we want to define explicitly how the user interacts with that given site functionality. This is Interaction Design. What happens when I click this area? Does this accordion section stay open if I click a different section? If you’ve been through a project where Interaction Design wasn’t done upfront, you may also have signed a change request for re-development of the interaction your users should have had to approve in the first place. If we perform this UX task upfront, we’re all on the same page from the get-go.
While Interaction Design defines behavior, Interface Design defines the elements that enable these behaviors. Should this subsection on the page be tabs or an accordion? What do we want the modal to be like? Should the check-in screen have a subset of fields? Questions such as this are answered during Interface Design. Interface and Interaction Design are symbiotic in nature and should be tightly coupled activities.
Lastly, but certainly not least is Navigation and Information Design. While mainly a concern for Portal implementations, navigation design will define how the user moves through the site’s information architecture. It defines the page level hierarchy as well as the associated interface elements required to implement the design. Information design, how information is presented on the page, is influenced by decisions made during Navigation Design.
For example: Should our Navigation Design structure the site by function or by corporate division? What downstream impact does this have on our information design? If we choose to define our navigation design by function, should we target the content by divisions or should we subdivide content by tabs or accordions?
Whatever the decisions, Navigation and Information Design are highly correlated activities that require careful thought and preparation to lay the proper framework for all of the aforementioned design activities.
The goal of each of these design phases is to present the end-user with a product that enables them to perform their tasks effectively and efficiently. The user should not have to think twice when using the product for the first time.
The next time you receive an RFP response for a WebCenter Content or Portal project and it mentions UI design, but doesn’t mention UX – that’s when you should think twice.