Old habits die hard!
‘Deep locator link hierarchy’ aka ‘breadcrumbs’ has been the primary form of user navigation since PeopleSoft introduced its internet architecture more than a decade ago. Since then it has taken various forms starting with a left hand menu to the recent ‘drop down’ navigation menu. In PeopleTools 8.55 this feature is not available by default. Predictably so, this change has met with mixed response and as covered in my earlier blog Staying classic in PT 8.55 (for now), Oracle has provided couple of options for customers who wish to retain this navigation.
However the bigger question remains, “Regardless of the ease of use that fluid interface offers, why do away with the navigation option that users are familiar with?”For an administrative user (like me) who is well versed with the navigational hierarchy and can find my way around the application, losing the drop down navigation is amount to losing the knowledge acquired over a long period.
Answer is, with a truly intuitive web application, users do not have the need to know a specific navigation to access a functionality, rather should be lead to it seamlessly with the process flow. While it may sound ideal, is it practical for an enterprise application that require specialized knowledge? Answer is YES, if done right.
I have now been using HCM 9.2 application on PT 8.55 for over a month and in my personal opinion, once I got past the traditional mourning phases of denial, anger, depression and acceptance, I got used to the new way of doing things.i.e fluid navigation. The term ‘fluid navigation’ refers to a collection of features like homepage, tiles, navbar etc. that form the crux of navigating around the application. These features are documented in detail here – Fluid UI Navigation Overview.
Of the multitude of fluid navigation features, one that has caught my attention is Application Start Pages, a feature to group related components (navigation) together and link it to a homepage, which potentially means any navigation in the application is just 2-clicks away. This feature could be effective in reducing the navigational burden while performing a complex multi-step process.
I have provided below an illustration of application start page and discussed its usage. Application start pages can be configured quickly and involves 2 key steps,
- Configure Navigation Collections to group the list of related components
- Configure and publish a tile using the navigation collection
For this illustration below, I have used a delivered navigation collection “BI Publisher” that groups the components involved in creating/maintaining BI publisher reports. Navigation Collection – ADMN_XML_PUBLISHER configuration, showing the list of folders and links grouped together.
Use the guided tile wizard to create a new tile by selecting the data source type as ‘Navigation Collection’. Review rest of the default tile configuration and update it as necessary before publishing it.
Once the tile is created and published with required security, this tile can then be added homepage or navigation bar as needed. Example below shows the tile ‘BI Reports Designer’ added to ‘Workforce Administrator’ homepage.
Click on the tile to reach the application start page as shown below.
Layout for application start page has 2 components
- Folders and links grouped in the navigation collection are listed on the left hand (which is collapsible if setup on tile configuration)
- Target application page is displayed on the right side. By default the first link in the navigation collection is displayed.
Users can seamlessly navigate using the related links in the collection without losing the context of the business process in action. In this example, starting with defining a data source and proceeding to create and run a BI report.
A key flexibility of this feature is there exists no restrictions in terms of what functionality or what order the components can be grouped. For instance, a HR administrator could make use of grouping the navigation required to perform a hire process (function based), while a system administrator could benefit from grouping the navigation to monitor system health (role based) and both can be achieved.
Oracle’s document on PeopleSoft Fluid User Experience Standards is quite rich in information and must read for anyone contemplating fluid. A key takeaway for me from this document is that fluid features provide a powerful set of tools for customers to design a navigation form that is most effective for them.
In effect, intuitiveness of your application is limited only by your imagination.