Friday, July 30, 2010

The UI - it's never standardized - GUI nightmares

How many User Interfaces did you use today? On the desktop, a UI for each application, maybe 3, 4, 5 or maybe 10 or more? What about your phone or PDA, your oven or your toaster? Your own car, your rental car? Your banks ATM, another banks ATM? Brought a train ticket, a top-up, a pay as you go? What about your TV remote? Do you have more than 1? I bet you do :) - So why are the UI's of even similar devices so different?

I've personally been involved in UI's in some guise in the enterprise for the last 30 years and I wanted to share some thoughts and ramblings with you. I've looked especially over these last 4 weeks, at 100's of applications from just about every vendor on the planet!

In the Enterprise, the UI is the entry point to the business applications for every employee and so should all be super consistent and allow the user to be super efficient. Truth is - the exact opposite is true. The only thing each of these UI's have in common, is that most have little in common with each other. They are frequently slow or hard to use. Even apps from the same vendor, a few years apart can have an entirely alien UI to the first version of the app. The training required today for all the different applications and tasks users have to undergo just to learn basic stuff, is still unbelievable. If the user wants a change to the UI, they are told NO or come back in 12 months! We had this problem 30 years ago didn't we? Do I press F8 or page up. Where's the home key. Why doesn't ESCape go back. Why are some fields red, yellow or green...  Where did the print go... Why do I lose my data if I switch off the "screen".. Why is the data on this tab... Why do I have 3 screens with different addresses... Why doesn't ALT-C always work... Right click, Whats the password again..

You get the picture. What I see every single day are users, using computers in a manual fashion (pressing lots of keys, remembering what they were taught, rekeying data, writing down passwords, tabbing, making mistakes etc.,) Is it the users fault? No. It's the UI's fault. It's a computer so why can't it automate some or all of these "manual" steps in 2010. The desktop PC has all the information to automate much of the task but there's no connection of apps at the UI so you train a user to do it manually. How very not 2010 slick!

The problem arises from the fact that even though we are moving to more web applications, each developer builds their web application differently (Adobe, Java, HTML 5, JScript, ActiveX, Silverlight, Custom). Good developers rarely are good at doing the UI and in fact most hate having to do a UI. So there you have it, each UI ends up being different within the web and outside the web (Mainframe Green Screen, Java, Fat Client) and the user ends up doing all their tasks - manually.

So what if, all of the UI's out there could be enhanced instantly with an open API that would enable them to be bridged to make them work together as one. Automating the millions of applications and billions of daily user tasks would become a breeze, wouldn't it.

That's what OpenSpan has spent the last 5 years doing. Using advanced hooking and injection technology (UI DNA recognition system) to sit inside all of these millions of UI's and open them up for almost instant automation. Any user process or task can be automated. This is the new breed of Business Process Improvement (BPI) technology that sits under the OpenSpans User Process Management umbrella. This is game changing. Better yet, OpenSpan has made this so easy, it is available to try by anyone, as a free download from download free IDE - ENJOY

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Enterprise Users still use PC's to do things manually... you're kidding right?

Nope. We spend vast sums of money around the nation giving PCs to End users, and then even more vast sums of money training them on how to interact with the applications running on those PCs. Not only is the training and people cost associated with using these applications a large portion of all companies expenditure, but here in 2010, very little has ever been achieved in reducing this spend (at least without negatively impacting productivity or customer service).

Doesn't that sound mad? Not really! Your TV is digital, right? Maybe connected over a fiber backbone down the street to a satellite receiving digital signals at light speed so you can watch live television, right? But equally, you are also probably using one or more plain jane AA battery powered remote controls where you teach yourself, your spouse and maybe your kids on how to change channels, set the volume, record, skip, play etc., All that awesome technology underneath and you are still forced into these manual steps. Sometimes perhaps even having to get out of your chair to turn the amplifier on manually!

So where am I going with this blog rant? The User Interface (UI) of course.

You see, no matter how much money we invest in technology, we have still not cracked making the UI any easier. Users spend weeks being trained to perform steps that the computer is perfectly capable of doing for them. Deficiencies in UI design across multiple applications prevent this though. Manual processes costs our businesses vast sums of money in what I call AWT (Average Wasted Time). Life sucks for the end user - big time - because the UI leads to so much wasted time, on every single desktop. You can't blame the user for what the UI forces them to do - badly!

What if (drum rolls please), every application our users use, were written by the same programmer with the same goal; to simply enable those desktop apps to talk to each other so all manual steps could be eliminated. That would be nice... BUT... (sigh's please)... considering most applications were written by different people, some many years ago even, you don't see this ever being likely in your lifetime, do you?

But finally you will (trumpets please)... OpenSpan has perfected a technology which can get inside any application (without coding) and bring old and new applications alive so they can participate in being automated, for any of the tasks a user would perform manually in the past. Often said by early prospects "this is too good to be true" - OpenSpan is proud, not only to have close to 120,000 enterprise users using our desktop automation technology, but ALSO, changing the way software on the desktop (UI's) are written. Game changing. It's no wonder companies are saving $100's of millions using OpenSpan. Automating people / processes = massive ROI -

Download it for free to try it here... If you think your user would benefit from one of many automations, just try it, and see if it works for you. Nothing to lose... Download Free OpenSpan IDE here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

OpenSpan Studio 4.5 - GA release candidate now available for free download

The OpenSpan Development team is pleased to make available OpenSpan Studio 4.5, Release Candidate 1 (RC1). This is the latest preview release of the next version of the OpenSpan Studio development platform. Our testing community and users who want to get a look at the next version of OpenSpan Studio should download and install this release candidate. 
Our goal behind releasing 4.5 RC1 is to ensure that we get broad testing and feedback on the performance and stability enhancements we’ve made since the last public Beta 2 release. Over the last few months we’ve been releasing interim builds to a small number of users who have been helping us validate fixes and measure very large projects and solutions. The feedback from them has been extremely positive, which is why we are opening up today’s build to a much wider audience.
This release, which was initially released as Beta 1 in December, 2009 and Beta 2 in February, 2010, includes many new features and enhancements to improve both developers’ and users’ experiences. To learn about what’s new in OpenSpan Studio 4.5 RC1, read the OpenSpan Studio 4.5 RC1 Release Notes.
Your feedback in our forums is highly encouraged to help us decide what needs to be fixed for final release.