Contextual instructional content vs. separate "user guides"

28 Nov 2005 - 1:00pm
8 years ago
6 replies
572 reads
Ockler, Sarah
2004

Greetings -

Web user guides are the albatross of our organization (health insurance
company). The practice is that if users (members who use our site to
manage their claims, benefits etc.) are confused, solve the problem by
creating PDF user guides or paper manuals with a screen shot of every
page of the site (literally - "Here are the pages you will see as you
enter the site...").

I've been tasked with creating an anti-user guide campaign and need to
champion better contextual instructional content. I'd like to include
analogies and examples of sites that do contextual instructional content
really well, particularly for transactional applications with more than
one step (e.g. buying something, searching for something with specific
parameters such as name and location in a doctor search, signing up for
a service etc.). My typical analogy is that if you visit amazon.com to
order a book, you don't have to (or want to) download, print and read a
50 page user guide full of screen shots to make your purchase. You
expect the process to be explained on each page contextually so that you
can complete your transaction without going off the site or worse -
reading a paper document at your desk.

(This is a book. To begin, open the cover and start reading from left to
right. Here is a picture of the first page you will see in the book.
:-) )

Does anyone have any thoughts or examples?

Thanks!

Sarah

Comments

28 Nov 2005 - 1:47pm
PetraLynn
2005

I would suggest looking at:

http://www.trainer1.com/csl.html

This is a very good context sensitive learning system adaptable to
many applications running on MS hardware.

On Nov 28, 2005, at 12:00 PM, Ockler, Sarah wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Greetings -
>
> I've been tasked with creating an anti-user guide campaign and need to
> champion better contextual instructional content. I'd like to
> include
> analogies and examples of sites that do contextual instructional
> content
> really well, particularly for transactional applications with more
> than
> one step (e.g. buying something, searching for something with specific
> parameters such as name and location in a doctor search, signing up
> for
> a service etc.). My typical analogy is that if you visit
> amazon.com to
> order a book, you don't have to (or want to) download, print and
> read a
> 50 page user guide full of screen shots to make your purchase. You
> expect the process to be explained on each page contextually so
> that you
> can complete your transaction without going off the site or worse -
> reading a paper document at your desk.
>

Petra Lynn Hofmann

petralyn at petrahofmann.com

28 Nov 2005 - 3:40pm
John Wood
2005

Hi Sarah.
I don't know if you are familiar with this paper, but it sounds like
it might be of some use:

Instructive Interaction: Making Innovative Interfaces Self-Teaching
(http://www.foruse.com/articles/instructive.htm)

The abstract states:

"An innovative approach to enhancing ease of use and learning for
novel user interfaces is described. Instructive interaction comprises
a body of techniques based on a learning-by-doing model that is
supported by three design principles: explorability, predictability,
and guidance. Taken together, these principles form the basis for
creative designs that can support highly efficient production use by
experienced users while also enabling new users to understand and
make effective use of an unfamiliar system almost immediately. The
underlying principles of instructive interaction are presented here
and an assortment of specific techniques based on these principles is
described."

The techniques it describes can go some way toward reducing the need
to document everything in long expository user guides.

John Wood

On 28 Nov 2005, at 18:00, Ockler, Sarah wrote:

> Does anyone have any thoughts or examples?

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28 Nov 2005 - 4:32pm
Anthony Colfelt
2005

Doing some research into Performance Centered Design may be helpful for you.
A quick definition of PCD is below.

"PCD infuses tools with knowledge, structures tasks, and enables performers
to achieve the required level of performance as quickly as possible – at the
very most, within a day -- with minimum support from other people."

Heres a link to start with:
http://www.chesco.com/~cmarion/PCD/WhatIsPCD.html

The list will be completely tired of my prattling about BBC Single Sign On
by now, but we did put a lot of thought into contextual help. Have a look at
it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/collective and 'create your membership' to see
how we implemented a couple of different types of help. One is relatively
obvious in links such as "What is a password?". The other is text that
appears next to a field 'on focus' (when you click inside the field). Audio
help is included for the sight impaired.

--
Anthony Colfelt
http://www.colfelt.com

28 Nov 2005 - 9:21pm
Dave Cortright
2005

If you haven't done so already, check out Microsoft's Inductive UI guidelines: http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/?url=/library/en-us/dnwui/html/iuiguidelines.asp

----- Original Message ----
From: "Ockler, Sarah" <sarah.ockler at gwl.com>
To: IxD Discussion <discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com>
Sent: Monday, November 28, 2005 10:00:55 AM
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Contextual instructional content vs. separate "user guides"

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

Greetings -

Web user guides are the albatross of our organization (health insurance
company). The practice is that if users (members who use our site to
manage their claims, benefits etc.) are confused, solve the problem by
creating PDF user guides or paper manuals with a screen shot of every
page of the site (literally - "Here are the pages you will see as you
enter the site...").

I've been tasked with creating an anti-user guide campaign and need to
champion better contextual instructional content. I'd like to include
analogies and examples of sites that do contextual instructional content
really well, particularly for transactional applications with more than
one step (e.g. buying something, searching for something with specific
parameters such as name and location in a doctor search, signing up for
a service etc.). My typical analogy is that if you visit amazon.com to
order a book, you don't have to (or want to) download, print and read a
50 page user guide full of screen shots to make your purchase. You
expect the process to be explained on each page contextually so that you
can complete your transaction without going off the site or worse -
reading a paper document at your desk.

(This is a book. To begin, open the cover and start reading from left to
right. Here is a picture of the first page you will see in the book.
:-) )

Does anyone have any thoughts or examples?

Thanks!

Sarah
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28 Nov 2005 - 11:01pm
Micah Alpern
2005

Hi Sarah,

The new selling process we're testing at eBay offers a novel system for
providing contextual information. As you make your way through the form a
right hand help panel is updated to provide with brief, contextually
appropriate guidance and information. This content is presented in outline
format and hyperlinked to help sellers find the information they need, when
then need it.

http://cgi5.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?SellHub3

Micah
eBay Interface Designer

On 11/28/05, Ockler, Sarah <sarah.ockler at gwl.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Greetings -
>
> Web user guides are the albatross of our organization (health insurance
> company). The practice is that if users (members who use our site to
> manage their claims, benefits etc.) are confused, solve the problem by
> creating PDF user guides or paper manuals with a screen shot of every
> page of the site (literally - "Here are the pages you will see as you
> enter the site...").
>
> I've been tasked with creating an anti-user guide campaign and need to
> champion better contextual instructional content. I'd like to include
> analogies and examples of sites that do contextual instructional content
> really well, particularly for transactional applications with more than
> one step (e.g. buying something, searching for something with specific
> parameters such as name and location in a doctor search, signing up for
> a service etc.). My typical analogy is that if you visit amazon.com to
> order a book, you don't have to (or want to) download, print and read a
> 50 page user guide full of screen shots to make your purchase. You
> expect the process to be explained on each page contextually so that you
> can complete your transaction without going off the site or worse -
> reading a paper document at your desk.
>
> (This is a book. To begin, open the cover and start reading from left to
> right. Here is a picture of the first page you will see in the book.
> :-) )
>
> Does anyone have any thoughts or examples?
>
> Thanks!
>
> Sarah
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

30 Nov 2005 - 3:14pm
Billie Mandel
2005

Sarah said:

> I've been tasked with creating an anti-user guide campaign and need to
> champion better contextual instructional content. <SNIP>
> Does anyone have any thoughts or examples?

I've been working on a user-centered enterprise portal deployment, and
what I can tell you from my research is that one of my users' top
problems is that much of the content on the portal they've been using
(that we're replacing) is stuck inside big manuals and policy document
attachments. They just don't read them. So the direction I'm going in
is all contextual - individual step-by-step guides for each key task,
alongside the relevant forms.

Moral of the story: for the average user of a system that's supposed
to simplify people's lives, "RTFM" - or user guide - is an
anti-answer. If you want them to see the content, use it, and thereby
not tie up your call center lines with mundane questions, give them
the content in easily digestible bites.

Hope this helps slay those weighty tomes where they stand.

- Billie

***************
Billie Mandel
Information Architect
Openwave Systems, Inc.

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