Examining the ongoing challenges of delivering high-quality, value-added ERP services in Higher Education.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

OBIEE Form Factor Design

Onboard the Acela, en route to an Oracle Usability meeting, I was indulging my unhealthy OBIEE habit. As you know from earlier posts this week, I finally got my hands on OBIEE on Exalytics and although we haven't started building or deploying any content, Sample App Lite comes with two demonstration dashboards -- one clearly "optimized" for Oracle BI Mobile HD (that bold inference courtesy of the Dashboard named "Mobile").

In looking at the "regular" and "mobile" dashboards side by side, there are not all that many differences. Fundamentally, the design changes can be boiled down to:

a.) Moving the prompts section from the left side of the dashboard to the bottom (BI Mobile for the iPad automatically pulls prompts to the top of the screen no matter their placement)

b.) Simplifying the dashboard layout such as breaking the contribution wheel visual onto its own Dashboard page, separate from the strategy tree visual.

Below are illustrations of these two techniques.

Sample Dashboard for Browser; Prompts on the Left
Same Dashboard in BI Mobile on iPad; note orphaned non-prompt content at left
Mobile-optimized Dashboard with prompts at bottom shown in browser
Same dashboard, note the prompts at the top and "orphaned content"at bottom

These examples started me thinking about design patterns, best practices, and the definition of "mobile." I'll blog later this week about the user experience of Oracle BI Mobile, but what concerns me most is the challenge of delivering information-rich analytics to diverse platforms.

Forget tablets and smart phones for now; let's talk browsers and PCs. My lead technical analyst has a large monitor on his desk. Nothing outlandish, just a typical extra-large monitor, standard issue these days. The delivered sample Dashboards look fantastic on his screen. But I exclusively use a laptop with a 14" screen, no big desk monitor for me. Consequently, any dashboard page designed to fill my analyst's screen will have vertical and horizontal scroll bars for me. Yet optimizing a view for my machine (or a tablet) will make insufficient use of the real estate on a big-ass screen.

So what form factor / screen size should be the basis for OBIEE Dashboard design? When is it worth building multiple versions of reports and dashboards to support each possible layout? (Because those same "mobile" pages that look slick on the iPad are borderline useless on the iPhone screen). (See below for examples). When should we encourage iPad users to fire up OBIEE in Safari instead of the BI Mobile App (browser is still our only option for our Android and Surface friends)? How do we make it simple (training-free) for users to know which reports they should use and which they should not? These are non-trivial obstacles to promoting mobile analytics.

"Contribution Wheel" on the iPhone; cannot scroll!
Now that's a useful funnel chart!

I don't pretend to have a lot of answers right now. I absolutely see the value in delivering intelligence to mobile devices (though I'm not entirely sure I have a user base that's ready for such things) and think it could prove a transformative opportunity...but we will need to spend a lot of time on standards and focus groups and experimentation first!


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