Tweaking WebCenter

April 28th, 2010 21 Comments

We joined the WebCenter development team back in late September of last year, and since then, one of our major projects has been redesigning the internal WebCenter 11g instance used by employees.

I’m happy to report that our first round of changes went live on Monday. More on that in a minute.

Coincidentally, the latest version of WebCenter 11g, Patch Set 2 (11.1.1.3) was also released this week, and one of the new features, Message Board service for Group Spaces, was built specifically to support our redesign. Our work also had a positive effects on other areas of Patch Set 2, including the CMIS API implementation for UCM.

This is a milestone moment for our little team.

We formed a little over three years ago as “a think-tank developed to drive adoption of new web patterns and technologies across Oracle’s business and products”.

Since then, we’ve influenced products, but not until this week, have we been able to point to a specific feature or product developed based on our requirements. Sure, the Message Board service for Group Spaces sounds pretty mundane, but it’s the first of what we hope are many features we influence to get into the WebCenter product.

Now for our redesign.

Our redesign had a few simple goals.

First, we wanted to create a frictionless interface for sharing information with other users, similar to what you find on the intertubes at Facebook and Twitter and inside the Oracle firewall at sites like Connect and OraTweet. I know, surprising.

Second, we operated as a WebCenter customer would, extending the product, using its APIs, and pushing the limits of what the product can do. This provided valuable insight into the customer experience that has been rolled into the product. So, in that context, Message Board service for Group Spaces isn’t so mundane.

Third, WebCenter has its roots in portal. We applied the activity stream concept that is increasingly common in consumer and enterprise web apps (e.g. Chatter, Connect, OraTweet) as a proof point that WebCenter can handle the changing landscape of how information is shared.

Our activity stream attempts to inline as much content as possible to avoid fragmentation of the experience. The stream inlines players for videos hosted on YouTube and Vimeo, renders appropriately-sized images for image files uploaded and for links that point to image file types (e.g. pictures stored on Flickr) and adds a viewer for viewing uploaded PowerPoint files.

Rich also added infinite scrolling, one of many Brizzly features we really like. No more pagers, just keep scrolling down, and the stream loads more content.

Finally, we changed up the navigation paradigm, moving away from nested tabs to a left-hand navigation column. Plus, Rich added some Javascript eye candy for navigating to Group Spaces.

Aside from these changes (the publisher, activity stream and navigation), we left most of WebCenter’s taskflows untouched because they’re already very robust and provide much of what we needed anyway.

Excited? Here are some shots:

Here’s a shot of the new Home page where the user lands after logging into WebCenter. By default, we’re showing the activity of the user’s connections.

Here’s a close up of the publisher. The dropdown also includes all the user’s group spaces for easy sharing.

Here’s a close up of the left-hand navigation column. We seed Activities, My Files, My Wiki, My Profile and Connections by default to help new users get acquainted. User-added pages are listed below those standard five.

Here’s a close up of Rich’s Group Space switcher eye candy in action. It pops when you hover over Home for more than half a second.

Here’s a close up of how we’re inlining YouTube videos.

Here’s a close up of an inlined image. This one happens to be displaying a link that points to an image file on Flickr.

And finally, here’s a shot of the PowerPoint viewer, which we show for any .ppt file uploaded to our UCM instance.

We’re not done by any means, and in typical AppsLab fashion, we’ll be iterating based on what we think is needed and on our users’ feedback. I’m a big fan of short feedback loops. In the short time it’s been live, people have reacted positively to the redesign, which is good, and as they use it, feedback will come, also good.

Obviously, our team didn’t pull this off alone. We worked very closely with many people in the WebCenter development team, who were very eager to assist us. Thanks to all of you for your support.

Anyway, it feels good to get reach this milestone. Now back to my usual babbling.

Find the comments and let us know what you think.

Update: Since this post went live, we’ve had several inquiries about our changes from interested parties outside Oracle, e.g. customers, partners, etc.

I wanted to clarify a couple things: 1) Our changes requires Patch Set 2, i.e. 11.1.1.3, 2) WebCenter ships with a sample, the Avitek Sample Portal, that might be useful as a starting point for some of what we did.

To meet internal and external demand, we are working to package our changes into a VM for demo and trial purposes. Stay tuned.


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21 Responses to “Tweaking WebCenter”

  1. theappslab (theappslab) Says:

    Twitter Comment


    Tweaking WebCenter [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  2. mayavenkatraman (the piXel Mind) Says:

    Twitter Comment


    RT @theappslab: Tweaking WebCenter [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  3. topperge Says:

    Congrats guys, I was monkeying with it earlier in the week and everything looks and functions great!

  4. John Sim Says:

    Great work! Will check out the update later this week :)

  5. Re: Tweaking WebCenter « Peter Moskovits’ Oracle WebCenter Blog Says:

    [...] Tweaking WebCenter Posted on April 29, 2010 by Peter Moskovits Jake Kuramoto has an excellent post on the new dress our internal WebCenter Spaces deployment got this week. [..] we operated as a [...]

  6. Jake Says:

    Thanks. You'll have trouble with that unless you're an Oracle employee :)

  7. Jake Says:

    Thanks dude. Send over your feedback.

  8. John McCullough Says:

    Wow! I'm impressed. I can't wait to see the other stuff you guys are concocted in the lab.

  9. pmoskovi Says:

    John has good connections at TVP, I'm sure they can show him around…
    BTW nice post, Jake; and the actual new UI is even nicer.

  10. Jake Says:

    Oh perfect. @John: Let us know if you want more information or a demo.

    @Peter: Glad you like it. Send over your feedback. We're prioritizing for the next round of enhancements soon.

  11. Jake Says:

    Thanks. You can get a glimpse of some of our work by looking through old posts on Connect, or head over to Oracle Mix (mix.oracle.com). We did the initial development on that.

    This blog has tons of old posts on both Mix and Connect, if you're bored :)

  12. bex Says:

    looks cool… I guess my next question is, how long did all that take? ;-)

    Any thoughts of having this be a pre-packaged offering? I could sense a lot of E20 buzz coming off of it… of course, there's a pretty big gap between “solution” and “product,” so making a shrink-wrapped solution might take a while.

  13. Jake Says:

    Glad you like it. We started in earnest in December, so about five months, give or take a few weeks.

    You know I can't comment on product direction :)

  14. Jim Says:

    Great news – well done Jake, Rich and co.

    BTW – since you posted about the Where the Hell is Matt video on here a while back, I've fallen in love with it, esp. the music. My wife is sick of the tune I think ;). I stole the track off listentoyoutube.com. If only everything in life was as simple as the feeling behind that video – i.e. we're all from different cultures and countries, and don't all speak the same language, but we all have the same common aims, goals, hopes, ambitions… and like dancing! So thanks for the tip!

    Good luck with your future work – I'm looking forward to reading about it.

  15. Jake Says:

    Thanks, appreciated. Where the Hell is Matt? is pure genius and as you say, always good for another viewing. It's always my de facto YouTube testing video, if only to share the love.

  16. John Sim Says:

    Thanks Guys; I saw a quick demo a couple days ago. It looks sweet!
    I do have a few simple UI integration queries with how you achieved some of the functionality,

  17. Jake Says:

    Glad you like it. Hit us up over email with your questions.

  18. Jake Says:

    Glad you like it. Hit us up over email with your questions.

  19. John Sim Says:

    Jake; is this all done with the ADF framework?
    Or did you use custom javascript or encorporated the jQuery framework to assist?

  20. Jake Says:

    No, we don’t have the ADF chops for that. Rich and Anthony used jQuery mostly, some HTML, CSS and a few Java tweaks here and there.

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