Monday, January 30, 2012

Oracle Support portal: HTML 5 replaces Flash

Oracle Support is upgrading their web interface from Flash to HTML5. I’m happy. I no longer have to twiddle my thumbs waiting for Flash to load:

Oracle-Flash

That was really annoying.  The consolation prize was that the Flash UI was still two orders of magnitude faster than the call back from support on a Sev 1, so the Flash interface really didn’t affect MTTR.

My major complaints about the Flash interface were: 

Managing Flash plugins on critical data center servers & management infrastructure. Adobe simply has not been able to keep Flash from being exploited, so having to rely on an exploitable plugin for daily operations never made me comfortable. It is really nice to be able to gather data on an incident and upload it directly to Oracle but that meant that the database management infrastructure had to have Flash plugins along with the associated risk/cost of an exploitable plugin.

Slow and unreliable. When I log into the Flash based support site, I typically need to reload the Flash app at least once, usually at the 90% marker. The new HTML5 interface is faster than Flash and doesn’t hang on startup.

Not tab aware. What could be more natural than opening up multiple SRs at once, each in their own tab? How about being able to search & opening up each result in a separate tab? Or being able to put an SR and its associated bugs side by side? The Flash UI couldn’t handle more than one tab. It excelled at making every interaction with the interface strictly linear.

Unfortunately what’s out there today still isn’t tab-aware. In IE I don’t get a right-mouse menu at all and if I try opening up new tabs on Firefox, I end up with:

Oracle-403

However – if I’m viewing an SR and I right-click on the printer icon, I can display the SR in a standalone tab. That helps. I still can’t open up an SR alongside it’s associated bugs though.
I suspect that Oracles lead UI designers are constrained by strict linear thinking. It probably never occurs to them that a user might work on more than one problem at a time or that a user might want to view both SRs an bugs at the same time. Or maybe Oracle has a corporate policy that prohibits two-button mice and browsers with tabs.

FWIW - In the process of playing with tabs, I also ended up here:

Oracle-NullPointer

Amusing.

2 comments:

  1. Opening SRs in multiple windows was a real problem. The design team knew it is needed, we all know it was needed, and likewise for KB articles. That is why we added the "Open Article in New Window" function for articles in the Flash UI. But SRs we just could not do because it would open a second Flash instance, and given your "love" for Flash you would not have been happy. In the HTML interface we have slightly different issues with our new infrastructure, but are working to allow multiple tabs. I have to say you hit a lot of good points, but it was never an issue with not wanting to do it, nor not knowing it was important. The technical challenges were just too much. We will work to do better!

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  2. Richard -

    I like the HTML version much better, as it already manages UI elements as an ordinary browser would mange them rather than as Adobe manages them in Flash and Air applications. I much prefer the former. (I.E. the difference in how scroll bars work in Adobe products vs. other products, and the differences in how the right mouse button responds).

    There are all kinds of places where Flash works great (multimedia, interactive tools and games) but it really doesn't work that well for ordinary text, menus and scroll bars.

    Having the ability to open multiple tabs on bugs, SR's and other articles is really important. I had 5 active sev 1 SR's open at the same time from mid-August until mid-Dec last fall, and I found that we routinely updated the wrong SR and lost track of what the latest action was on the various SR's. Having the ability to keep them all open in tabs would have helped alot.

    I also think its great that you are using your own ADF. Oracle will end up with a better framework is it is used internally, and Oracle customers will benefit.

    --Mike

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