Product Training, Onboarding, Help Documentation & Microlearning

The You-Already-Know-How-to-Use-it Principle

A while ago I got myself a shiny new ThinkPad and installed Windows 7 on it, along with Office 2010. The move from the XP to Win7 was more dramatic than the move from Win ‘93 through ‘95 and ‘98. Icons had replaced text-based menus and everything was sleeker, curvy-edged, Mac-like. Adjusting to this new UI didn’t take very long. The folder directory, for instance, stayed structurally the same, but the icons’ design was changed, making the whole viewing experience a disorientating one. Things stayed the same yet were now totally different.

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This got me thinking about the first TV ad for iPad, which claimed “It’s magical. You already know how to use it”. Smashing Magazine did an excellent, comprehensive piece on pattern recognition and familiarity, explaining the cognitive reasons that make us so happy to discover shapes and colors we are used to and how Apple capitalize on that tendency.

Having been conditioned to variations on the same user interfaces for years now (Mac/Microsoft/Google), I can’t help but wonder what the last time any of us had a REAL first time user experience, when it comes to software or webware. Like, a groundbreaking, innovative, unheard of new UI that we would have to actually learn from scratch and not count on our intuitive understanding of operating systems to handle.

An exciting thought, no? Well, even the most seemingly intuitive reasoning has its counter argument. Tune in next week, when I explore the flipside of intuitive UX design…

Tips for a First Time iPad User

Tech Republic’s Brien Posey lists 10 Tips for First-Time iPad Users and manages to nail the basic yet not trivial functions a first timer will be baffled with. What is unique about this post is that it was written by a self proclaimed life-long Microsoft user for fellow Microsoft users who have made the move to iOS. Even the most tech-savvy, seasoned Windows users find themselves flabbergasted when confronted with a new operating system. It can be unnerving, not being able to carry out the most basic functions, especially in what is considered the most usable interface on the planet – the Apple UI. So thanks, Brien, for the water wings and for helping us not feel like complete technociles.  

Thanks to the Houston Press for lending us the iPad Gladiator.

The Junction Experience

Over the past several weeks, Iridize’s CTO and CEO, Oded and Eyal, have been hard at work at The Junction startup accelerator. We were fortunate to be accepted into the 8th Wave and learned a lot from the mentors, peers and instructors. We forged some great professional ties and got a boost of knowledge and skills. Thanks, Junction folks!

 

thejunction-accelerator

 

Your Website is Your Gateway

If you’re on the internet or generally informed on what’s going on in the world, you are probably aware that the SXSW festival (South by South West) currently taking place in Austin, TX. This is one of the major cultural contemporary events in the world, although you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell that from the festival’s website. 

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While it is very informative, there is an abundance of menus, some of which are a scroll-down away (and the important ones, at that). There is no clear direction as to where one should start, what each of the menus do and where relevant info is stored or even of one should checkout the lineups before clicking the supporters’ icons. In their defense, it should be said that the schedule (probably the most desired element in the website) is accessible from at least 4 different locations…. but wouldn’t it be simpler if there was just one?

A website is a gateway for any online business or event. Meaning, most of the action takes place on site and offline but that is by no means an excuse to neglect your online channels. That much is 21st century 101, but the “why” may need some revisiting.

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(A gateway – an illustration)

If the eyes are the window to the soul, your website is the window to your business.That is many, MANY of your users’ first stop on their way to you and they will judge you by it. A jumbled festival website will have people worrying that your ticketing procedures aren’t in place, that double bookings may have occurred – heck, that your security arrangements aren’t %200 taken care of. 

Coachella seem to be well aware of that, as are the Leeds Festival and Lollapalooza, which pretty much balance out the blinding colors and loud disposition. There is a certain communal, indie-esque grace that comes with the SXSW website, that is lost in the obviously super-professional, high-powered design the latter websites present. That is it’s appeal, in a sense. Too bad it has to come at the expense of confidence in the professionalism.

Training and Instruction in The Age of Usability

Most of your end-users probably have a gmail account. They have probably been upgraded already to the clean, icon-centered Windows 7 or the snazzy Tablet-styled Windows 8. They may or may not own an iPod/iPad, or any other Apple product but they most likely have an ebay/Amazon/Etsy/Pinterest account. I’m not even talking about Facebook. The point being – over the past few years, your users have gotten used to smooth, shiny interfaces, a minimum amount of clicks and actions within a single workflow, less buttons and let’s face it – less words.

 

This presents a remarkable challenge to the world of training and instruction, which is rooted in the written word, in the the constant strive for eloquence and in the struggle to break down into words a piece of software built and designed by someone else. Writers and training professionals are faced with the need to deal with what may be conceived as the dumbing down of end-users. There is less tolerance and patience toward complexity in this world of 3-colors-2-buttons-no-scrolldown. Granted, intricate products will always require a multi-step approach to instructing, but even their producers are gradually succumbing to the icon-toolbars culture and are minimizing the amount of steps between actions.

 

Today’s software is carefully selected by individuals and corporations not only for its powerful performance but also for the ease with which it will be implemented. Less time wasted by end users on learning a SaaS tool or a Word processor – more time for them to be actually working.

In this user experience climate, online help is also undergoing extensive transformations. Knowledgebases and FAQs are no longer enough and the amount of websites offering chat support upon initial landing has increased dramatically.

The context-sensitive online help service Iridize offers is exactly about that. We recognize the need to take the training and instruction field into its next stage and the dynamic on-page guidance tool we developed is that smooth, elegant solution for combining indispensable text with an accessible, easy to use tooltip.

Writing Help Documentation for New and Veteran Users

One of the challenges facing documentation writers since the beginning of software is the following dilemma: how to reconcile help content for first time users and veteran users? The working assumption being that first time users need to be taken by the hand and led throughout the product step-by-step, whereas veteran users are versed in the product and need to learn only advanced and new features.

 

Mark Baker, a long time technical communicator and content engineer, wrote extensively about this matter. He argues that users are no longer at the level of novice-ness that requires hand-holding documentation, and that software UI has improved to the point where users are protected from disaster by intelligent microcopy and careful UX.

 

We have the power to run sophisticated interfaces. Early electronics did not have the power to run fancy interfaces, to provide infinite levels of undo or to warn about any destructive actions before executing them. Interfaces used to be cryptic and dangerous because they ran on limited hardware. Now they are clear and safe because we have the computing power to make them clear and safe.

Mark Baker, Tech Comm’s Obsession with Novices has to Stop

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Iridize to Assist Government of Israel in Pillar of Defense

As many of you know, the past few days have been turbulent in Israel and Gaza, as Operation Pillar of Defense unfolds and the region is shaken with rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and air raids on Gaza.

 

Iridize has stepped in to help with the Government of Israel’s Emergency Portal (since then taken down) – an aggregator of useful information to help folks through these days of tumult. Based on the same modular technology we used to bring you on-page guidance, we developed a solution that enables quick, smooth conversion of a standard website to mobile. The best part: no need to download any Apps. This way, anyone anxious for updates or information on emergency setup will be able to access the info easily on their iPhone or Android with the website interface adjusted for a mobile experience.

 

How does it make for a better user experience? The information you’re looking for just got a whole lot more accessible. Instead of downloading yet another application serving a temporary purpose – just browse www.darom.gov.il (since then taken down) on your mobile and get what you need.

 

While we realize this doesn’t decrease the panic when the alarms go off, we would like to think iridize is contributing a bit to reducing the stress level in terms of staying updated and informed. Iridize would like to take the opportunity to send out the team’s deepest concern and sympathies to all the people whose lives have been affected by the turmoil.

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