Context: A user needs to understand how to do something
complex, usually either performing a task or creating something freeform
(as with a WYSIWYG Editor).
Video game demos that run automatically between games
Adobe Illustrator's introductory tour and tutorials
A friend showing you how to do something
TV shows that demonstrate cooking techniques or hardware projects
Problem: How can the user learn how to use the artifact?
Solution: Demonstrate how to do it. Show
a video clip, or drive the software to actually do the task (or something
representative of a typical usage) in front of the user. Make clear
what exactly is being demonstrated beforehand. Let the user repeat
the demo, pause it, move slowly through it, etc. If the task in question
is very freeform, demonstrate several variations of the same task, to highlight
both the common and the specialized aspects.
The artifact doesn't clearly show the user what to do next.
The task will be easy to remember once the user sees how to do it.
The user doesn't have the time or inclination to read written help, such
as a manual.
Written help is useless or absent, or what needs to be done is difficult
to put into words.
Resulting Context: Hopefully the user will learn
what they need to know. Support them when the start performing the
tasks in question with extra help, such as with Short
Description for immediate information on objects or actions, and Step-by-Step
Instructions for very specific kinds of tasks.
Notes: Illustrator's demo tutorials turned out to
be not as useful as I hoped they would be. Why not?... They were hard to
follow; I didn't always know what they were doing before they did it (a
running text commentary would have helped), and the mouse jumped around
too much to see where it was going most of the time. I'd love to
know what other people's experience has been, with this and other software
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last modified May 17, 1999
Copyright (c) 1999 by Jenifer Tidwell. All rights reserved.