Product Training, Onboarding, Help Documentation & Microlearning

Leave Clicking Alone!!!

Rian van der Merwe makes a compelling case for not optimizing for the fewest number of clicks. In the process, he aggregated some in-depth articles on design and UX. Very much worth the read. 

I have to say, though, I am not sure this applies to first time user experiences. There is a certain, shall we say, concern or even apprehension that FTUX entails – how will it be? What does it do? Will I like it? Does it load fast enough? Will I get the hang of it quickly or will I despise it for making me feel like an idiot and immediately look for alternatives? —- all of these are clear and present dangers concerns and as such, should be addressed as early on as possible in the user-engagement process.

In regard to the clicking dilemma – it may very well be that in order to speed up the engagement and get the user safely to the point where they are settled within the application, the clicking should be reduced to the necessary minimum. But this is not done as some attempt to get the user to work less, rather we should get those clicks out of his way as part of his homing process, first and foremost letting him acquaint himself with his surroundings and relax into a new environment. 

Google Reader, the alternatives and old habits

As you probably know, Google recently announced (somewhat unceremoniously, but about half the internet has devoted cloud-space to that so I won’t) that Google Reader will be shut down, come July 1, 2013. Like other GReader refugees, I’ve been forced to look for a replacement. Twitter, bless its heart, gave me feedly, which seems to be the winner so far. It’s smooth, lean and its UI aims to be magazine-like, which simulates a leafing-through sensation, which most RSS readers do not. 

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I was happy enough about this relatively smooth move but then something started bugging me. It took me a few seconds to realize what I was missing. Can any of you GReader expats tell what it is?

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The item’s publication date is missing. This is something I was used to in GoogleReader and which I miss a lot because of the volume of data I consume through my reader. Date is an important factor in determining relevance. This got me thinking about the habits we drag around from one piece of software to another. Habit is such a crucial element in first time user experience, to the point where we might establish an opinion on new software based on whether it correlates with what we are used to, rather than whether this new feature is better than what we have been conditioned to.  

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.

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