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K7. Clear and Comprehensive Instructional Assistance The balancing act between initial learnability and long term usability often results in some functionalities that are not self explanatory to all knowledge workers in a targeted population. To ensure that workers have just-in-time access to needed answers, product teams can envision useful, findable, and directive ”help,” delivered via channels that are well suited to characterized learning needs.

What functionality concepts might your team envision to provide targeted knowledge workers with comprehensive and appropriate support for their learning needs and critical issues? What contextual, goal directed interaction pathways could your computing tool present in order to connect users with stored user assistance content, online repositories, relevant social networks, or specialized support staff?

I’ve spo�ed something interes�ng in this data, but I’m having a hard �me ge�ng to the next transforma�on that I want to make...

Examples from three knowledge work domains: A scientist sees an interesting trend in her analysis application, and she wants to modify her current visualization to highlight data that match some complex criteria. After clicking through some settings screens without success, she clicks on a contextual help icon to launch the relevant section of the application’s comprehensive help system (see illustration). An architect browses the support website of her building modeling application for “tips and tricks” on how to set up security permissions for subcontractors, before getting started on the necessary data entry. A financial trader uses the phone number listed in an error message to call his trading application’s customer support team, whose members have access to an extensive help database.

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications for knowledge work:

Clinical Scientist

What domain knowledge, existing skills, learned interaction expectations, and other background will targeted individuals likely bring to their experiences with your team’s product? What parts of your application concepts may be inherently difficult for some workers to learn? Where might variabilities in work practices within targeted markets and organizations lead to additional learning needs for some users?

So I’m clicking around my analysis applica�on to see if I can find anything that looks related to what I want to do...

What high level gaps exist between what workers already know and what they may need to know in order to have positive user experiences with your computing tool? What specific understanding gaps might your team identify for each of your primary functionality concepts?

Knowledge workers often do not learn an entire interactive application in a single sitting, and supporting instruction can play a crucial role as the adoption process unfolds over time in organizations. Computing tools for specialized work can be extremely specific and intricate, making it difficult for people to digest all of the instruction that they need during initial training sessions or “out of box” experiences (K2). Product teams can envision a variety of instructional methods and presentations within their application concepts that are tailored to the range of ideas that they are seeking to communicate (C3, F, L4). In some instances, distinct assistance options, somewhat removed from day to day user interfaces, can be desirable. For example, contextual instruction (D4, F1) can progressively disclose an application’s help content, an online information repository, the social networks of a user community (I, M3), or a direct communication channel to product support representatives. In other cases, where actions are infrequently accomplished, procedurally complex, or especially sensitive to error (G3), workers may value scaffolding instruction that is more present and integrated into user interfaces (K6). When product teams do not actively consider the larger instructional assistance requirements of their application concepts, resulting products may not adequately support workers’ initial and ongoing learning needs (K5, C1). These tools may present users and their organizations with costly and frustrating trial and error situations (D2, D3) that can negatively impact brand perceptions and work outcomes (L1). Conversely, poorly conceived instructional features may provide little value. Many contemporary tools contain vague, marginally useful instructional content of the baffling sort that most personal computer users are all too familiar with. See also: A, C, E, F10, F11, G, J7, K, M


What portions of your application concepts will probably be accessed infrequently in most organizations? What learning needs could arise from these cases? Which of your sketched functional areas has, by design, more flexibility and less instructional content, with the assumption that workers will gain skills through ongoing use and would find directive scaffolding to be distracting? And I’m clicking on a ques�on mark icon to see what it says...

What comprehensive assistance approaches are most appropriate for the learning needs your team has characterized? ?

In what cases might actual conversations be necessary to resolve knowledge workers’ issues? What feasible support can your team envision for these interactions? How could the availability of instructional support be made contextually apparent in your computing tool without distracting from rehearsed, day to day interactions? What media formats could appropriately represent canned instructional content in clear and engaging ways?

Good. It looks like this program includes a fairly comprehensive manual in it. My problems are o�en so specific, and in many programs, I can’t find the detailed info that I need...

How might your envisioned approach for providing comprehensive instructional assistance tie into your concepts for introductory instruction? How might it relate to your conventions for error prevention and handling? Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design concepting could valuably inform your team’s application envisioning efforts?

Working through Screens (Tabloid Size)  

Working through Screens: 100 Ideas for Envisioning Powerful, Engaging, and Productive User Experiences in Knowledge Work This heavily illus...