Interesting things about ECM


Improving usability with Oracle

Filed under: Oracle UCM, Stellent, Usability — Tags: , — Anthony Fast @ 10:17 am


Improving usability with Oracle

By markmorrell

Oracle is holding their first Usability Board Europe meeting on May 5th.  I’ve been to a previous Oracle meeting and am keen to improve the usability of all applications BT uses.

At this meeting Oracle and founding members will:

The usability issues I will be raising are:

  1. Out of the box usability must be high
  2. Better usability does not mean more features.  It means features must be more usable.
  3. Think of users when offering help.
  4. Don’t focus on making error messages better, aim to prevent users making errors.

I’m sharing some slides I plan to use at the meeting.  Anyone want to add anything?


Mark Morrells Oracle UCM improvement wish list

Filed under: General, Oracle UCM, Usability, WCM — Tags: , , — Anthony Fast @ 4:18 pm


My Oracle UCM improvement wish list

By markmorrell

Oracle is aware of Janus Boye and my blog posts and tweets on Twitter about Oracle usability issues.  Oracle want to help resolve these.  I’m starting with Oracle UCM.

Am I missing any of your issues?

1. Publisher control

Oracle UCM has poor ‘granularity’ of permissions and no obvious back end to see who has access.

The permissions only allow two (publisher) levels, a limited ‘only edit what’s already there’ and a far too powerful ‘does lots of complicated stuff with a very complex interface’. This suits organisations with a few powerful people in a central group, but not BT’s intranet governance model which has decentralised publishers.

A hard coded menu item called ’switch region context’ has no place on an interface I expect a large number of users to use, and that’s only one part of a convoluted process to add a new page.

The user ids do not integrate with other user ID systems and it is difficult to integrate this with other processes (e.g. make sure that only people who have done training have access).

2. Quality of web pages

Oracle UCM should never be able to generate invalid code.

The conversion from MS Word is very poor ‘out of the box’, producing inaccessible and invalid code. With a lot of work – BT was able to improve this but never approached an acceptable level. Oracle UCM needs only to allow ‘well written’ MS Word documents (i.e. only accept well formed documents) and to reject (with explanations) documents it cannot convert to valid, accessible pages.

The site studio interface is poor and difficult to apply standards to. The browser version support is difficult and you have to rely on using admin permissions to install a clunky java applet. I don’t know if the applet is usable to people with disabilities. If it must use ‘rich’ interface elements then accessibility must be considered.

The pages themselves seem to insert a pile of javascript (is this out of the box?) and it’s difficult to enforce things like good metadata.

3. Template creation and management

There seem to be few well written components to use in the templates. Additional features (e.g. embedded video, RSS) need to be custom written and template specific. That’s a maintenance headache waiting to happen.

Management of templates appears to be awful. This encourages poor re-use of template development resource. It’s hard to quantify the effort required creating a template, but it seems to be excessive compared to other competitors. BT’s aim is to reduce, not increase, costs.

Please help me to help you with Oracle applications’ usability by commenting.


Things I dont like!

Filed under: General, Oracle UCM, Usability — Tags: — Anthony Fast @ 11:42 pm


Writing a blog is a challenge. You should really spend some quality time to think though topics do your resarch and then write. Writing a techincal blog is a bigger challenge as time spent on doing research is more then for a ordinary blog.

Things said and done lets start blogging. This time I am puting a list of things I donot like about UCM.
  1. Support: Before cribing about the product and some of the intrinsic details I would like to mention that UCM support from Oracle is average. Most of the times support personel have no clue as to what is happening and what should be done. Agreed that Oracle has just acquired the product and doesnot have the required numbers to give best support considering the product is buggy and doesnot behave as mentioned in the documentation(actually most them do not!) support should be up to the mark so that the implementation teams doest not miss dead lines with your SR still in work in progress status.
  2. Documentation: I find UCM documentation to be too prechy at times. We need product documentation in tutorial format. Some thing like FileNet and Documentum have where they teach you step by step on how to do things. They also have published there case study similar to revanna. I donot see any documents related to revanna other than explaning site studio capabilites.Only good thing about this is that it has a good book in the market by bex.
  3. Folders: If ever oracle wants to get into serious document management it should beef up this component or still go ahead and do a redesign. Currently according to me this is very primitive. When ever you create a folder UCM gives it a unique id call collection id, this is done automatic and you have no control over this. Now if you have a situation where you have created a profile where all content ends up in particular folder and move that profile to other environament you have reset the default folder for the profile using the Collection id in each environament. I say give me some thing which i can control some thing in line of Content type, so that i need not worry about different environament when i am programming.
  4. Site Studio Designer: This is a lousy IDE. This cannot even do a word wrap! While creating fragments this doesnot automaticaly do some basic manual things. Will eloborate more later.
  • Workflow Designer: UCM Workflow applet is very very primitive. It looks like it was created during the first version of Stellnet and nobody bothered to revisit the UI. Again if oracle wants to get into serious ECM it should beef up this gives us some good process design capability, should allow us to publish workflow as webservice, allow people to consume other workflows.. and blah balh blah….
  • 2009/10/06

    Should Oracle be on your Web CMS shortlist?

    Filed under: Oracle UCM, Usability, WCM — Tags: , — Anthony Fast @ 1:39 pm


    August 31st, 2009 by Janus Boye

    OracleOracle is among the largest global enterprise software vendors and like IBM and Microsoft, Oracle entered the CMS marketplace via an acquisition (Stellent in 2007). Oracle Universal Content Management (UCM) is based on the original Stellent product now fully rebranded, much improved and leading the market according to IT analyst Gartner. Does this make Oracle an obvious and safe candidate on your Web CMS shortlist?

    We find that Oracle UCM does not come up often in standalone Web CMS selections, which is why it did not appear on our 2009 CMS Shortlist. According to Oracle sales pitches, the product has experienced increased adoption in recent years. As the Oracle customer list is very long and Oracle is known for upselling to the install base and for including UCM in larger deals, this sounds plausible.

    Depending on your specific requirements, there are several reasons which might make Oracle a meaningful inclusion on your shortlist.

    • Oracle has continued to invest engineering resources in the product and made several recent improvements to the WCM part of UCM including usability, personalisation and accessibility.
    • As a large software vendor, you may already have a strong existing relationship with Oracle. If this the case, your stakeholders will probably appreciate getting a proposal from Oracle.
    • If you have a strong requirement to manage non-web content, eg. documents, this will play well with the product’s strengths.

    Before you go ahead and add Oracle UCM to the shortlist here’s a few bullets for your consideration:

    • License and implementation cost will require a serious budget. The starting price is either US $115k  per-CPU or $2,300 per system user. Moreover, Oracle implementation partners are not known for attractive hourly rates.
    • Usability might have been improved, but still existing customers on the newest version of the product are so frustrated with poor usability that they publish commentaries like Oracle, can you improve your poor usability please? by Mark Morrell at BT.
    • You will need to learn the proprietary “Idoc Script” language for Site Studio until 11g release comes out.
    • UCM is a complex product and will be overkill for many scenarios.

    Oracle is planning to release the much-anticipated 11g version of Oracle UCM later this year, which we look forward to studying closer. In the mean time, consider talking to Oracle on getting more information about what’s coming.

    Thanks to @erikmhartman, @irina_guseva, @proops, @TonyByrne and @vesterli for valuable input.


    WebMonkeyMagic on hyperlinks in UCM

    Filed under: General, Oracle UCM, Usability, WCM — Tags: , , — Anthony Fast @ 10:13 pm


    The achilles heel of Oracle UCM – hyperlinks

    UCM is a great document management system but its websites are sure awkward. The most obvious blunder was the editor so thank god that’s been fixed! This leaves us with the biggest weakness in the system – hyperlinks.

    Let’s look at exhibit A – the Hyperlink Wizard. The new UCM spots a brand new fully AJAX interface for creating links. There’s an amazing amount of code and effort put into it – just to make it work exactly like the old one! Fair dinkim guys, it took a pHD* to understand the old one so why replicate its horrible functionality? Did you expect your users to be so fully engrossed in the old way that they would be incapable of doing it any more simply? Why did you waste your time reinventing the wheel when it is just as square as the old one? I wonder if they have ever tried to create a link…

    The first thing it does is ask “do you want to link to a section, file or URL?” What? Why do I have to choose? What’s the difference? I want to link to another web page… who knows? Click on file. “Do you want the current item, existing file from server, upload a file, new file, or new word doc?” Hmmm, I’m editing this link so I don’t want the current item (duh). Why would I create a word doc? I’m trying to make a link to a web page! I guess I’ll have to choose existing, good thing I already know the content id. Once the initial search results finally load, i have to search again using my content id. Ok, I have selected my content item. Now it asks “use default web section metadata, choose a section or just link to URL?” Do i care? What does a section mean anyway? I think i want a URL but I know my page is already used in website x, so I’ll drill down into that website until i find a “section” that sounds like my page. Click click click click click. Click next and it displays some ugly code and calls it my “link URL” (i thought i chose a section!) asking to me confirm. Hmm that looks nothing like the link i expected to see. Click finish and hope for the best.

    Wow, what a pointlessly verbose experience (and i even removed a step!) Steve Krug says, “DON’T MAKE ME THINK!” so my contributors skip all that by simply pasting the published URL into the first “URL” field. The system however does not recognise published URLs, decides there are no links to that page, and deletes it from the published site. D’oh!

    And take a look at the URLs it publishes. Every one ends in some seemingly random number! Why? Because the system must give every page a unique id. C’mon guys, most free CMS software generates human-sounding URLs even before Web2.0 happened. Is it really that hard?

    And so ends another rant. Hopefully my next post will be about a replacement Hyperlink Wizard that I have written for you to download and enjoy.

    * I work at a uni, my contributors are academics and they screw up the links all the time.


    SWOT analysis on Oracle UCM by the University of Minnesota


    Aug 24, 2007 – 08:39:55 – JeffreyAbuzzahab

    UMContent (Oracle UCM) Pilot
    Implementation SWOT Analysis


    • CSOM: The Core Services (SOA) architecture is outstanding.
    • CSOM: If you don’t have tons of autonomous units and are document centric, then you can’t go wrong with UCM as we have it installed today.
    • CSOM: Good separation of content from display.
    • CSOM: Metadata is available along with the document in most cases on the server side and SAO.
    • ASR: Content server is big and can handle large amounts of content.
    • ASR: Powerful, customizable, extensible from Content Server perspective.
    • ASR: Forces thoughtful organizing and structuring of content
    • ASR: Creates discipline in web page formatting
    • ASR: Document conversion engine (?dynamic converter?) does a pretty good job of transfering styles from basic word docs to the web
    • ASR: Document Management is the strength at the core
    • CEHD: Web interface to content manager is fast for a Web interface.
    • CEHD: Visual folder model in Site Studio great for organizing, naming URLs and naming navigation links.
    • CEHD: Dynamic Converter is surprisingly robust, and a fine solution for rigorously-structured Word docs.
    • CEHD: Dynamic navigation is efficient and stable.


    • CSOM: Can’t do full text search, let alone replace, and even ordinary content searches are tricky.
    • CSOM: Lots of server and OS – dependent configuration items make server setups difficult to maintain and clone.
    • CSOM: Many features are top level content server level features, mean the must be shared at the individual site levels. This forces us to rely on central administration of those features and any site specific customizations are less likely to happen if they then must be over ridden in every other site (we will have thousands of sites.) Examples: workflow, metadata, security.
    • CSOM: Site namespace issue: root level sites are not possible, requiring vast amounts of “bad links” link redirects or link rewrites.
    • CSOM: Direct linking to Contribution Data Files, no styles can be applied to these files. They just render very thing.
    • CSOM: Only one type of content can be set in the replaceable region on secondary layouts.
    • CSOM: Only one region on a secondary layout can be set as replaceable.
    • CSOM: Summary/Detail views are difficult to achieve (if not impossible)
    • CSOM: Forms based input is difficult to achieve (if not impossible)
    • CSOM: Experience programmers have difficult time locating information about services or iDoc syntax when faced with typical programming issues. (Documentation format issue)
    • CSOM: UCM is too native document centric, or may be just the documentation is to native document centric. We find that trying to use dynamic * CSOM: converter on forms submission, and static lists data file output is alluding us. We want to take the files and “work” with them and are finding it difficult to get dynamic converter to work with them.
    • CSOM: Site Studio is like web development from the 1990’s.
    • CSOM: Site Studio contributor content authoring interface is user unfriendly it is a hindrance to user adoption and acceptance (Site Studio user interface usability issue).
    • CSOM: Full CSS based layouts can cause site studio to behave oddly in both contributor mode and in site studio development mode, without lots of non-value added special handling.
    • CSOM: Inter-region HTML mark-up of element s appears to routinely disappear or be altered.
    • CSOM: Contributors will need extensive training compared to that needed for our current CMS or ‘many other CMSes’.
    • CSOM: Using the same Data File from a Static List in different regions on a primary layout and secondary layout might not work. If the replaceable content is supposed to use the Data File
    • CSOM: Centralized content server architecture makes it very difficult for Unit Areas to create components.
    • CSOM: Layout mark-up routinely disappears.
    • CSOM: Site Studio crashes fairly often.
    • CSOM: Fragment Edit mode is troublesome. Often I want to edit a fragment and I end up adding it to a layout. (Site studio usability issue)
    • CSOM: Excessive number of steps to edit web assets, five to seven click for each change.
    • CSOM: With the loss of some Admin features the navigation to support functions (like the link to dynamic converter disappearing.)
    • CSOM: Real Security Certificates are needed on the Dev/Staging/QA/Production instances.
    • CSOM: The product mix feels caballed together. Viable names, casing, formatting are all different depending on what part of the product you are in.
    • CSOM: We receive lots of “Unable to generate form” errors in site studio and contribution mode.
    • CSOM: Cannot preset Static list default values for each instance of a list on a layout, cannot even get rid of the useless Column 1, Column 2,… defaults.
    • CSOM: Lack of Debugging tools and functions
    • CSOM: Lack of log file views that are appropriate for Site Studio Developers and Contributors
    • CSOM: Thumbnails are not fuctioning on the Dev server
    • CSOM: Wysiwyg handles unordered lists and list items in unexpected ways
    • ASR: Slow to work with (multiple steps for simple concepts)
    • ASR: Complex, developer intensive, and doesn?t deliver a web site that warrants the front-end labor
    • ASR: I-doc scripting is proprietary and requires study
    • ASR: No pool of experienced developers around to learn from
    • ASR: No pool of experienced developers to hire
    • ASR: Kludgy – lots of work arounds
    • ASR: Doesn?t deliver on core RFP functionality
    • ASR: Can?t do full-text search and replace
    • ASR: No single sign-on (X.500 or LDAP)
    • ASR: Styling done within WYSIWYG editor is not accessible
    • ASR: Doesn?t provide semantic tagging with WYSIWYG editor
    • ASR: Inverse relationship between content provider flexibility and accessibility. One Stop will require both.
    • ASR: Cannot integrate outside data sources w/out JSP functionality
    • ASR: Access to some functionality is compromised by Admin vs. Sub admin roles
    • CEHD: Documentation for proprietary iDoc script is poor.
    • CEHD: Six pilots have overloaded the system, cannot exclude content from other Webs… goes over 255 character limit for naming exclusions.
    • CEHD: One poorly written query can bog down entire system.
    • CEHD: Expensive Web design client required for Site Studio to function properly, DreamWeaver? recommended.
    • CEHD: WYSIWYG editor is actually a form based editor.
    • CEHD: Form based editor does not support element-selector pairing in compliant CSS.
    • CEHD: WebDav? integration is odd, access to a folder requires access to all parent folders above in the hierarchy, this is just plain silly.
    • CEHD: System is completely dependent on Microsoft Windows OS to function, yet does not keep pace with progression of Microsoft developments.


    • CSOM: We still see that having a central content repository as being a large value. But the limitations of what are top level shared services threaten this opportunity.
    • CSOM: Content objects are very sharable and movable; however the primary/secondary pages and their limitations seem to threaten this opportunity.
    • CSOM: Certain aspects of the SOA lend themselves well to CSS based implementations; however site studios in place contribution mode implementation and the default fragments are a threat to this opportunity.
    • CSOM: Being to use workflow to capture business processes, and efficiently queue content related tasks.
    • CSOM: Leverage the information in the Active Directory system (assuming OIT makes this one of their priorities too.)
    • CSOM: Change in Oracle handling of licensing is seem as a positive development. UMContent can now take advange of a more complete technology solution.
    • ASR: Shared content management across the institution will lead to a more consistent and effective institution-wide web presence
    • ASR: Metadata model is a good mechanism for content sharing
    • ASR: Distributed web content management is a model we will implement. We are looking for opportunities within that model to maximize the value of our content expertise without making overwhelming demands on our web developers. Web CMS should save IT time, not add.
    • ASR: Digital Asset Management and Document Management components have uses for ASR, and could be combined with Web CMS as a comprehensive communications tool.
    • ASR: Oracle may invest heavily in this product segment and integrate this product with other products we own (PeopleSoft?, UMCal, etc.) UMContent may end up providing us with an intergrated and flexible solution.
    • ASR: Working with units and OIT on deploying this product effectively requires a new level of IT cooperation- a level that we have not yet reached. That cooperation can be leveraged for other projects and products, and build trust between central and unit-based IT units.
    • CEHD: Hire developers centrally to clean up system
    • CEHD: Develop semantic fragments… then EVERYONE can use the same well-written fragments while retaining unique visual design.


    • CSOM: Upgrades / enhancements may affect our current “workaround” development
    • CSOM: Components seem to have global effects. Each component could over-ride the next. The many add-ons in the server architecture will make for an unstable development environment.
    • CSOM: The Dev Content Server upgrade from 7.x to 10gR3 seems to have failed and we haven’t been told much. This makes us lose confidence. When we then asked about the customizations that Mariah did to the server while her, we found out that some of them where done without OITs involvement and that we are not sure if they were reapplied and functioning after the reversion back to 7.x. Images (?and assets?) didn’t work after the upgrade. UM Relations fragment templates had to be reapplied after the upgrade. (why?) No timeline after the attempt about when the upgrade might be reattempted, and no communication of the “all clear”. Therefor we must assume that somethings still aren’t working.
    • CSOM: Contributor mode continually asks for username and password.
    • CSOM: Wysiwyg – getting to the HTML Source view to be able to paste in Dreamweaver code is very combersome.
    • CSOM: Content Server searches are case sensitive (and appears to not be changable)
    • CSOM: Lacks the motion of “Modules” present in most Web Content Management Systems. 1 2 3 4 5 6 and the ones it does provide we have plenty of already. (wikis, discussions and blogs)
    • CSOM: Lack Forms management tools that are easily used by contributors.
    • CSOM: Lacks out-of –the-box the ability allow contributors to add content to layouts in ways they prioritizes.
    • CSOM: Lack of a OIT priorities list, users priority list, issues submitted to Oracle list with priorities, resources, costs and timeframe.
    • ASR: Number of pilots who now have sites up and live in production (0) is not a promising sign.
    • ASR: If pilots are not successful, adoption rate will be slow, thus sharing will be much less effective (less of an opportunity.)
    • ASR: Unclear how /not easy to share fragments, layouts, etc effectively
    • ASR: Metadata integrity is fundamental to large-scale deployment with content sharing. Not clear if units will commit to maintaining metadata effectively. Metadata may drive content inappropriately if not monitored for quality.
    • ASR: Spend big money on consultants / professinoal services to get the functionality and results we are unable to get on our own, and then still not be happy with the output.
    • ASR: Upgrades / enhancements may affect our current ?workaround? development
    • ASR: Upgrades / enhancements slow (The elusive 8.0 we said we would purchase.) When? Timelines are guesstimates. Many in the RFP group room said, “Yes, if it’s 8.0,” when the questions was to buy or not to buy.
    • ASR: Complicated and unwieldy for future support. Units need dedicated staff to be fluent in Stellent / i-doc skills to update/program changes for OCM and One Stop.
    • ASR: There is an inherent conflict between the desire to have a centralized WCMS for the University and our decentralized institutional structure and vested interests. It is possible that this product will never allow us the “atomization” of delegation that they claimed in the “response to RFP”, and therefore, will only be effective if seperate instances are used.
    • CEHD: No clean/easy migration path out of system.

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