Product Training, Onboarding, Help Documentation & Microlearning

Who Will Guide the Guides?

Back in 2010, Brandon Guerrie at Venture Beat wrote a guide to writing walkthroughs to videogames (are they really still called that?). Not being a gamer, I can’t quite fathom the point of being told how to handle challenges instead of figuring them out yourself -isn’t that the point, though? Or am I missing a major component of this genre of games?- but Guerrie gives some find pointers on the art of guiding guiders. Things like “take your time” and “spell check”, which you would consider trivial but really aren’t.

His  thoughts on the relevance of guides: 

Are guides still needed?

This is a very true statement. I feel modern titles today are much more lenient and straight-forward. Games like Bioshock and Modern Warfare 2 have that destination pointer — in most case scenarios, you know where to go. Harder difficulty settings and online gaming is, for me, more about the actual player learning and gaining skills to improve. But in a sense, I still believe games with puzzles (God of War) and tough bosses (Final Fantasy 13) still needs the shining light with a writer to reach out and help someone. It all depends on the game, I suppose. 

Urban Proficiency Through Clever Design



I absolutely LOVE finding random, middle-of-the-day real-live walkthrus – in real life, that is. This particular sidewalk traffic sign is part of an attempt to educate Jerusalem residents how to board and disembark the relatively new city Light Rail.

It seems trivial, but apparently isn’t: The large, main arrow pointing straight ahead acts as a Yield sign, freeing the way for the people on the train to get off it first, while the people waiting to board are instructed to wait (patiently behind) the lines, along the diagonal arrows.  

The cherry in this design that makes the entire flow work is the promise that lies in little diagonal arrows, saying to the boarders: don’t worry, you WILL board the train, just give it a minute. This addresses the element of anxiety that drives people to push their way into the train-car without waiting for the disembarkation – the fear that they won’t get on the train in time and it will leave without them.

Such a little arrow to soothe such a primal fear.  

This brings to mind Pete Smart’s 19th day UX problem and solution in his 50 Problems in 50 Days project. It’s a good read, so you should.  

Nomenclature – What Do You Call Interactive Guides?

Back in May, Jonathan Anderson at UXMagazine started an important debate on the direction and shaping of the UX profession. This made me realize that the field of walkthrus and site tours is also in its formative days and as such, the terminology to address the thing that shows you other things around websites is, well, half baked at best.


It’s funny, that. Think of web and technology terms that didn’t exist or did but acquired a new context over the past 3 years and yet you wouldn’t question their meaning: Mobile, Social, Tablet. Everyone knows exactly what you mean when you refer to apps, plugins, add-ons, but there is hesitation when it comes to interactive guides, online guides, etc.




Needless to say, this multiple-term conundrum has its consequences where Search and SEO results are concerned. This Babylonian term-jumble will eventually resolve itself and as far as linguistic trends and evolution are concerned – one of the terms will stick. For the time being, I did some research in an attempt to get a clearer picture of the terminology currently in use to describe what we do:


At Iridize, we find that On-Page Guidance is a pretty accurate description of what we do, accentuating the on-page aspect, which, we feel, is what this solution is about – providing the help on the same page the issue is, rather than sending the user to wander in the Realms of Off-Page. But this term is hardly in use, and so not very useful on the marketing front.


The two most common terms to describe this solution seem to be Walkthroughs and Site Tours. It should be noted, though, that in many cases the use of both Walkthrough and Site Tour actually refers to tutorial videos, presentations or screenshots.


Another term in use is Product Tour, used by Google Analytics (or would be, if the tour existed).


Interactive Guides is also a popular choice of term and it usually refers to high end graphic work combined with responsiveness to the user’s actions (mouse-over, clicks). A fine example is Microsoft’s interactive guide to Office 2010 commands.


There are also Introductory Tours, but they are less common, I assume because of the expression’s length.


Do you know of any other terms to define what we do?

Explaining Fletcher

Buzzfeed tend to publish endless lists of photos, meme-wannabies and, well, random stuff, but every now and again you can find a real gem. This letter, for instance, that could easily be mistaken for a note by a concerned parent who doesn’t want his epileptic kid to OD on sugar while Trick-or-Treating but is in fact a remarkable manual to the neighborhood parents on how to make sure 8 year old Fletcher can have his (very figurative) cake and eat it to. Kudos, Fletcher’s dad.

What had me smitten (after the fact that this father seems to be moving mountains to provide a fun, normal Halloween experience for his son) is that Allan (Fletcher’s Dad) takes the time to explain his kid’s medical condition alongside an elaboration on what an Angry Bird is (Fletcher’s costume). This is how manuals should be written, IMHO: under the assumption that the fact that people do not know or understand a thing does not mean they are not generally intelligent. 


Infographics app recommendation

After some fishing around for an inforgraphics app, I found Infogram. It seems perfect for my modest needs – integrating basic data charts with snazzy design and more than enough graphic templates to reflect any kind of data. Plus (and I know I’m biased about this, but still), at no point would one need to journey off-page for anything. Even the chart apparates as an overlay on the graph and so are the design/ template settings. It occurred to me that there is an effect of actual psychological relief in being able to stay on the same page, rather than venturing to the great wilderness of the Off-Page, with a constant nagging doubt as to whether what ever you Saved will be there when you get back.


The Forgotten Users

In the previous episode, it had been decided to buy my father an Asus NEXUS 7 for his birthday. Over the past few weeks I have been keeping tabs on my father’s progress in exploring his new toy. It turns out he’s been having issues with several functionalities on the device:


Google Play – because the music arranged in the MS folder system he’s used to

Editing documents – because he is an MS Word power user and Google docs simply don’t cut it

Downloading PDFs – because he has a hard time figuring out where the files are downloaded to and —wait for it—

Navigating the UI –  because he isn’t familiar with the icons. Which, I think we can agree, is the most fundamental requirement in interacting with any kind of user interface.



Now, the thing to keep in mind is that my father is no technophobe. He is very apt when it comes to Windows and Office, is a Photoshop autodidact and manages most of his financials and paperwork online. He just isn’t all that familiar with Google products and Android in particular. This brings to mind John Palvus’ boycott on “Intuitive” interfaces:


No technology is intuitive. It’s all just familiar or unfamiliar at first (…)

I think what we all want from technology are interfaces and interactions that feel familiar, legible, and evident. They should teach us in ways we would like to learn, and speak to us in a way we can understand. This doesn’t mean that technology ought never to surprise or challenge us. But desperately seeking “intuitive” feels, to me, like a kind of techno-animism. Interfaces aren’t magic, and we don’t really want them to be. To borrow from Timo Arnall: interfaces are culture. And like any pieces of culture, what they ought to do is simple: they ought to connect.

There is something inherently wrong with the idea that baby boomers, who until recently were humanity’s hope for a better tomorrow, are left in the dust of the Black Mirror technology. The speed with which technology advances is rapidly increasing and the people spearheading it sometimes forget that only the ones born into it can keep up with it. And in a digital culture where every new feature is based on familiarity with earlier versions of it – that is one critical survival skill.


Of course, these are also the voices unheard, because they don’t wield the power of hashtags, are not part of the vibrant online discourse and are rarely test users for apps that don’t target them in any case. And so the cycle continues and as these things go, missing out on one rung makes it all the harder to catch up with the next innovation.


Technological progress shouldn’t stop for anyone, but maybe the UI and UX folks should consider looking around every so often and taking a more inclusive designing approach.

Google, Aristotle and Pro-active Customer Support

A while ago I realized I was imitating Google when presenting a new idea. Since imitation is the best compliment, I tried to figure out what they do that is worth copying. Here it is: when presenting new features, Google usually: 

  1. Tell you there is a new feature happening.
  2. (and this is the most important part) Explain what the operative meaning of it is for you, the user. This part is usually mediated by the combination “this means that —” and includes a remarkably simplified explanation of the feature’s functionality, purpose and benefits over not having it. 
  3. Details of the feature and technical aspects.

The beauty of this technique is that it introduces a first time user experience without making the user feel like an idiot for not understanding it. The simplification is in itself an acknowledgement of how difficult it is to grasp the technology and keep up with the change (yes, this means Google are addressing none-Millennials. Imagine the shock).

It is, in point of fact, an implementation of the age old rhetoric method: Tell them what you’re going to tell them, Tell them, Tell them what you told them. And most cunningly, this technique embeds the FAQ into the actual text, providing the help experience during the intro, instead of being a passive support provider and waiting for the users to wander to the knowledgebase. Brilliant, no?

These excerpts from a Google docs blog post on the new drive functionality give a pretty good example of how it all works:




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