Thursday, December 10, 2009

MOS UI and Patches

The Dashboard no longer bothers me that much. In the Flash version I can almost get rid of everything. In the ADF version the regions are pretty much static BUT the News and Alert entries include a date so I can consciously but moderately quickly tell which is NEWs.

It is time to spread out and look at some of the other 'designed or not' areas in the UI. Some of these I have already reported either inside the MOS Community or with Richard Miller on his blog. I'll create 'one blog per irritation' so I can track them. :-)

My criteria for irritation is pretty simple: anything that interferes with my problem resolution time. In other words: IF it requires extra bytes, or extra keystrokes, or extra scrolling, or extra concentration to refocus because of 'cuteness', I'll report it. (An example of the last: the window that slides on - distracting me through movement - to tell me what I just did ... and refuses to go away unless I tell it to hide.)

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So on to the title story: Patches and the UI

I'm pretty happy that they did not break the old Metalink Patch capability (yet). It's stoopid slow, and I suspect that is caused by the process which seems to be reading the original HTML page and translating and re-rendering it in JSPX. (Why do something once if we can do it twice using 5x the CPU?)

But it works, and that is a major plus.

On the other hand, the Patch stuff in the Flash area is almost amusing, in a sad sort of way.

Patch Reviews

First thing to note is that users can write reviews of patches.

And when you look at a patch, you will see those reviews whether you like it or not. It does not matter whether you are getting that patch for the first time, or the 20th time - you WILL wait until the reviews are loaded. And 15-20% of your page will be used to display those (zero or more) reviews.

Apparently getting customer peer reviews is so important that other customers can not even opt-out.

Patch Tab Regions

There are 5 regions available for the Patch tab.

1) The 'Patch Plan' region seems to be an ad for Patch Plans. There does not seem to be any configuration possibility, so in reality this seems to be just another of the many different (and inconsistent) forms of 'knowledge article' available. A waste of space, but one we can suppress. (Just need to remember that is is a waste of space.)

Why not stay consistent with the Knowledge Article concept or with the Help system, I wonder? (-1)

2) The 'Patching Quick Links' region provides two links of interest to me: "Advanced Classic Patch Search" (found in the E-Business Suite area) actually points to the old 'Advanced' search page, and "Latest Patchsets" points to the old 'Quick Links and Latest Patchsets' page. Both of these very quickly pop up a new browser window (or tab) and work just like the old Metalink version

Score a BIG +1 for this!

3) The 'Patch Related Activity' region tracks the history of which ones I viewed, downloaded, reviewed, and which ones I've marked as 'Favorite'.

(I wonder whether a 'favorite patch' is just like a 'favorite teddy bear' I also note in another section that I can have 'Favorite Bugs'. Perhaps these favorites are something I can cuddle up with? But I digress, just some fun with words.)

It's nice to see Big Brother in action, keeping a history of my moves and telling me about it. I do see some hope for this region and think in the future it may become useful.

Score a modest sized +1

4) The 'Patch Recommendations' region is the most amusing for me. It is only useful if the collector is running.

I've set up the collector to run against a Dell Precision 490 2x dual-core, 2GB RAM, Windows 2003 SE (32 bit, fully patched) Personal Edition 11.1.0.6 patched to 11.1.0.7

I've started discussions with the Support folk to understand the recommendations. Suffice it to say that (as Matt Glover in MOS Communities said) MOS is a 'work in progress'.

Good idea, when they get it working. No points yet.

5) The 'Patch Search' region should be the most useful for the way I work. It runs in two ways: by patch number; and by using a set of filters to help get a list.

The search by patch number works. You enter the patch number (or a comma separated list) and optionally qualify by platform and/or language, and click 'Search'. (Note that hitting "Enter" is not good enough - you MUST use the mouse!) That takes you to the patch list page - a region that takes over the whole Flash area (even if there are no results).

There is no 'Back' functionality. The browser 'Back' button is inoperative, and the region does not have one. You need to use the "Chicken Track" (aka Bread Crumbs) navigator links at the top left corner of the page to 'go to a previous page'.

But it works. +1 (a very small +1 because of the lack of 'Enter' key and lack of 'Back')

The search by filter capability needs improvement.

To be 'fair', that filter capability was added in very short order and under extreme pressure after we were forced to move to MOS, so there is obviously opportunity for improvement - or perhaps just opportunity for basic design. (To be 'unfair', this is basic functionality that should have been made available and thoroughly tested before the transition. -1)

We start with a comma-separated Product entry. There is a list of values - by my calculations that list contains 1332 entries. We can type the product name (RDBMS Server) and the system will use a 'typomatic' technique to narrow the search in the list. (A big +1)

Then we MUST enter the release number. So for RDBMS Server we get 45 entries displayed in groups of 13 per page and we can select the ones we want. Although this is a similar action to the Product entry, this time we get check boxes and no typomatic. (-1 for inconsistency)

But the real pain is that list of 45 entries is sorted in ascending order and the currently supported releases are on the last page only. (-1 for dramatically slowing me down.)

Then we select one of more platforms - using the same technique as the Release. (+1 for a modest amount of consistency)

Optionally, and available only by clicking the funny (+), you can filter by additional criteria (classification such as security, legislative), by type (patch, set), by target (database, SOA, etc)

This one gets to me in the following areas:
  • I'm struggling why an RDBMS patch would be required for a SOA or OC4J target;
  • Not sure why PSU and CPU are not separate, selectable Types;
  • I really dislike being forced to switch between mouse (change fields, select) and keyboard.
And when the selection is complete and I hit Search, the resulting page (which may contain 0 entries, or even an error message) has not usable 'Back' functionality. However, I can call us a selection editor to refine my search.

If I get a list of patches, I can click on one of them.

The page rearranges it's shape: 20% is given to the list of (1) patches; 15% is given to the mandatory review (or "be the first to write a review") area; and the remaining area is for Patch Description. (My preference would have been a separate browser window/tab for the patch, and make the review area optional. A very simple rearrangement would put the Readme, Download and Platform selection in the main area.)

The 'Readme' opens a new browser window. (+1)

Clicking on the bug description replaces the patch search window (which took over the page, no longer a region) with the knowledge browser window which has NO easy way of going back. (-1)

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Bottom line is that the Patch Search functionality, like a lot of MOS, seems to have been created using a 'look Mom, no hands' thought process.

In this regard, I really agree with kathryn's comment on Chris' blog at http://blogs.oracle.com/support, where she says "This should NOT happen. We should NOT have to email you to discuss and see what can be done about each and every error...We PAY you for a product that works..not to be the testers on a Beta product."

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Richard Miller's blog (http://blogs.oracle.com/supportportal) has 3 entries on

  • Gathering Feedback from Recent Usability Research and Studies

  • Actual User Feedback

  • Special Areas of Feedback: Content, Quality, and Performance

Interesting.

I hope he blogs about the design process as well. There is much to be learned from the Oracle experience.

All that said, I know that this will work out in the end. Heck of a price (alienating a significant chunk of the customer base - remembering the old adage "for every one that complains, 10 suffer in silence and even more leave") - but it'll get there.

2 comments:

Noons said...

"Clicking on the bug description replaces the patch search window (which took over the page, no longer a region) with the knowledge browser window which has NO easy way of going back"


or indeed clicking on any link inside the patch or any other document displayed in the right pane!

Which means: click on anything in the right display area and you'll have to repeat your search!


Blind Freddy could have figured out that not providing a "back" button while providing "forward" links in the results of a search is the definition of a totally demented design process.

But heck: this must be all that "dinossaur dba1.0" mentality catching up with the entire community, again!

Buncho of twerps...

Forbrich said...

I see that you also enjoy having that standard UI capability obfuscated.

I was planning on dealing with the 'Back' issue as a separate topic. The challenge is leaving the language at a level permissible for 'polite company' as I'd been using so far.