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What We Learned from Participants
Training is a Problem Not a Solution

  • If your biggest function is the help system, you have a problem
  • Can be costly and usually too little too late
  • Spend the time on design
  • Talk and work with users
  • Simplify tasks into smaller chunks
  • Hire an expert

You won't be there to hold the hands of every user of your web site. In the workshop, the "investment" developers had with their prototypes led them to hand-hold guest users on their exploration of the design. Certainly some explanations were necessary simply because the prototype is not interactive without someone there to "move around" the stickies as someone pretended to select something on the prototype; but designers need to recognize the difference, to help "weed out" usability problems.

Training, as a proposed solution to a complicated interface, generally means the interface is not intuitive. The amount and size of the training is impacted by the thought and design that went into the interface. Organizations should consider the life-cycle costs of a web project recognizing that in most cases the cost of training will be significantly higher than the cost of designing it properly in the first place. For example, do you spend a week (with possibly 5 staff people) of calendar time to work on a few major usability problems, or do you spend 30 minutes training the 6000 people in your organization, not to mention the rise is tech support help needed by those 6000 people when they forget their training and cannot use the interface. Some simple math shows a 15:1 savings. Even a 2:1 savings would likely be worth it. We hear many times in the consumer software market that ONE support call can wipe out the profits on the sale of TEN copies. The Windows CD-ROM market is ripe with these examples and the web will be in the same position shortly as big businesses role out transaction systems and business applications on the web.

So, what can you do? Spend the time on the design phase, listen to users throughout the process, and focus your design on the tasks that need the most work. And it never hurts to hire an expert!

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Comments: Happily Received!
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Updated: 01.20.1998