Thursday, December 13, 2007

On helping users go beyond the super novice level

From UX Matters:
http://uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000249.php

  • Provide contextual user assistance. Within a system, provide the means for people to explore ways to do new things or to do better things that they're already accomplishing in some way. Consider devoting a portion of each screen or module of an application to providing people with user assistance that has the aim of increasing their acquisition of system knowledge. Update this information frequently and dynamically. This kind of knowledge-acquisition content is distinct from classic procedural Help, which as Mike Hughes has pointed out in his UXmatters column is usually not very helpful anyway.
  • Record users' interactions to discover teachable moments. Encourage your interaction and information designers to discover what people need in order to learn—by, among other techniques, measuring what people do in an application and profiling their usage patterns. This will provide you with some insight into where people spend their time and what—as well as where—the teachable moments might be. This could be as simple as building an RSS feed reader directly into your application.

It reminds me of the fact that I've been using stuff like MS Word and OpenOffice.org and yet I am so not an expert on using them.  I am still very much a novice because I just know the things I need to do on a day to day basis.  A couple of months ago I learned more about using MS Excel from some of my teammates in a project where we had to use MS Excel and MS Visio a lot for our deliverables.  Anyhow, I guess there's a lot of functionality within the apps that I never could find the time to learn and at the same time, I didn't have enough contextual clues so that I could 'figure out' that I could do other things.

Designing user interfaces seems to be quite challenging because you don't want your app users to get lost in clicking here and there.  Because if that happens, their user experience turns out so bad.  And now that I am learning more, I am also looking for ways that I could help users understand the app more and my getting lost in certain apps and web services (like Ebay, etc.) are good lessons in what should be considered when designing an interface.

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business analyst by day, blogger by night. also a frustrated artist.

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