Business Space Design Goals
Once epitomized by the movement of paper from one desk to another, Business Process Management (BPM) is the most popular kid on the software block these days, displaying some of the sexiest software out there. Rather than pushing paper, business units can now make use of Web 2.0 technology to expedite their business processes and bring decreased time to value to their customers. It's no surprise that IBM has been a leader in this cutting edge field, offering tools to help organizations optimize business performance by discovering, documenting, automating, and continuously improving business processes to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Specifically, Business Space powered by WebSphere, is a mashup framework that is the showcase in the suite of tools which enables users to interact with BPM application content from one single interface across WebSphere products.
User Experience (UX) team worked on a number of research and design challenges. Early in the project phases, the team focused on user research, helping the development team to define the target users and their core tasks. They then turned those users into personae to be used throughout the development cycle. On the design front, the key tasks were driving consistency, defining the user experience and balancing designs to suit both high-level business managers as well as heads down power business users. The core objective was to ensure that the designs were inline with the User Interface guidelines. When there are a number of different teams contributing content to a single framework, it's important to maintain consistency so that users do not feel like they are using a tool that was delivered by a number of different teams.Within this product space, the
The WebSphere BPM Usability Council provided a core set of customers that would partake in the development process. Through monthly calls, approximately four customers actively participated in the scenario validation and design review steps of the process. This meant that the team did not have to wait until the end of the release cycle to be able to get something in front of customers, and they could confidently proceed knowing that they were designing value. For this feature pack the team had the opportunity to meet with customers three times, and they plan to do a full demo session with them to identify high priority things to improve the next release.
Design challenge for table layouts
The filter capability for table layouts has been met with very positive feedback. The challenge was to provide business end users (who need to work efficiently and often with as few key or mouse strokes as possible), with the ability to perform filter searches on their tables of data. For example, Ivana is working on the customer help desk, and has a large number of tickets assigned her. These are displayed in a table, with each ticket shown in a new row and each of the tickets' properties in the columns. Earlier this morning, Mr. Brown called asking about the status of his ticket, so Ivana needs to perform a quick filter search on the table to find Mr. Brown's details.
For the design, the team wanted Ivana to be able to complete the filter within the context of the table, so she didn't have to launch another dialog or window. She also needed to be able to apply the filter over multiple columns simultaneously, and also be able to clear each filter individually. After a number of iterations, the design and development team ended up implementing the filter directly on the column header. From there, Ivana is able to both set and clear individual filters, where each are tailored to the type of data that column holds. For example, the Due Date column will offer Ivana date filter control, and in the Last Name column she can type in text strings for filtering.
Business Space was one of the first adopters of WebSphere One UI. This defines a consistent UI style across the WebSphere brand, provides reusable components for implementing applications, and enhances our development process to ensure our products are being designed from a customer perspective.
Initially, there were concerns about overloading the column header; in addition to the new filter function, the column header also was home to the traditional column sort.Then, based on feedback from the latest Dojo table grid widget demo, the sort feature on the column header was augmented. The user was now able to perform sorts across multiple columns simultaneously. For this release, the team decided that as long as there is value being given to the user and the design is elegant, then the extra function would not be perceived as overloading the column header. Of course, we will need to do some rigorous user testing on this feature moving forward to validate and improve these designs!