Multi-select box UI ramble

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Good morning.

Today I want to discuss the multi-select prompt below. You should recognize this one easily – since most of you work with this quite frequently. Ta-da:

OBIEE multi-select
OBIEE multi-select

What’s wrong with it, can you ask me?

Well, the major one – I and many of the clients complained about when I worked for them – believe that it’s counter-intuitive to drag from right to the left. At least in Western culture (USA, Europe, Latin America), it’s been accepted that information is read from left to right. I won’t get into much details, but in most software that I use on a daily basis, such functionality works the other way than implemented in OBIEE – you drag from left to right. This is the biggest issue, which I hope Oracle’s developers would fix in 11g (if they don’t, I know it’s not their fault).

Second problem, you need to click Go button in order to get results. In this age of web 2.0, AJAX, etc. – it would be relatively easy to start outputting results once you start typing. I agree, this isn’t a bug per se, rather an interface issues. However, users now need to spend more time in the multi-select  – instead of going straight to the data.

Third issue, 1-column positioning of data in the select window. There’s so much white space, that it could be spent better. I don’t think quality software should leave doubts in its user interface. There’s no doubt that it’s not a show stopper, but again, those little things might attribute to better acceptance by potential clients.

Finally, OK and cancel buttons should be positioned in the center. I’m not claiming to be a design and usability expert, but I observed people spending time trying to figure out what to do next, or worse, clicking on Cancel – subconsciously.

OBIEE’s Multi-select has been a source of frustration, anger, and complains from my users.

I always addressed this as a training issue, and I still hope for a fix.

P.S. while writing this I thought – “Is it possible to re-work the box?”…technically, that shouldn’t be difficult – script responsible for it is here: res/b_mozilla/prompts/gfpmultiselect.js  By some java-script re-arranging – it should be possible to “reverse” boxes. Problem with that is it would constitute a major code change and loss of Oracle support, and possibly infringing on the license.

Just by looking at script – it seems as nothing have changed since 2002. Also, it would be nice to have a feature of designing own UI (such as using skins, templates, radio-buttons, other interface elements).

OBIEE quiteness

It’s been awfully quite and peaceful lately in the OBIEE environment. I think everyone is busy, which is a great thing – it means people are making money. I actually remember that the most active times are the ones when there’s slow amount of work. I quickly run through the list of the OBIEE blogs I usually attend to – and most  (most – not all) of the posts are dated back in March. Myself, I’ve not had much time to blog – too busy on the project as well as developing network relationships. I apologize if I couldn’t answer one of your questions in the comments – I hope you were able to resolve the issue.

On another topic – OBIEE google’s group is doing well and growing strong (although the goal isn’t the numbers, but the quality). The quality of topics is amazing, as well as insight provided. I am starting to think that it would be advantageous to hide the material from public view (in order to encourage registrations and discourage lurkers).

I wonder how many people are doing beta testing of OBIEE 11g (and can’t tell due to NDA). I’ve already advised the client that many issues we’re battling would be solved in the new version, however, it doesn’t mean that the “fix” is right around the corner.

Stay well and feel free to connect.

The Rittman Mead BI Forum

If you’re in the UK  in late May and eager to improve your OBIEE skills, do some networking, and meet top experts in the field – I suggest you attend The Rittman Mead BI Forum. Kurt Wolff will be present (expert on all OBIEE-related topics, who worked on OBIEE’s grandfather product) for a very advanced session , where some of the topics will include:

Data modeling topics will include fact tables with different grains, solving complex security requirements, inputting user choices into formulas (for example, calculating a discounted price) without using variables, ragged hierarchies, using dynamically named physical tables, the use of specialized tables to avoid errors at query time or when setting prompts, preserving dimension values, calculations that require inner and outer joins among multiple tables, modeling a near real-time transaction environment, modeling a multi-tenant architecture.

Attendants will include: ” John Minkjan (OBIEE), Venkat Janakiraman (OBIEE, Essbase, Fusion Middleware), Mark Rittman (OBIEE, OLAP), Craig Stewart (ODI), Adam Bloom and Mike Durran (Oracle BI EE), Tony Heljula (OBIEE) and Emiel van Bockel (OBIEE, Database) and this year we are pleased to have Gerard Braat (OBIEE) and Robin Moffatt (OBIEE, Database).”

Sounds like a great opportunity to learn directly from the great OBIEE minds.