Monday, March 30, 2020

2020 #DTA: Instructions are part of the product. They can make the product easy or hard to use. A critical issue for education, where there are always new students using those instructions

Instructions are part of the product.  
They can make the product easy or hard to use. 
A critical issue for education:
If the instructions don't work, the teachers do.

Recommendations on how to design instructions so they help market the product.    Not just to hobbyists, but to educators and businesses.

We can meet in a virtual world
  • Even if we are in quarantine or shelter-in-place
  • No travel costs.  No travel time.
  • But you gotta know the territory.

Designing the instructions

  • Yes, you don't just write them.  You design them for the users' needs.
  • Design thinkingUser-centered design (UCD).   
  • You must be designing the product for the customers' needs. 
  • Surely you want the instructions to show how the product meets those needs. 
  • That's what Marketing needs to sell the product to educators and businesses.
  • And the instructions should be part of the product design:
  • It is easier to fix the software than to fix the instructions.

My rating steps

  • Intuitive: Label and floating text are adequate.
  • Easy: One sentence in the quick start guide is adequate.
  • Hard:  More than one sentence is needed.
  • You lose customers as you go up those steps


Use-organized instructions

  • Users start with a use-case.  They want to figure out how to do something.
  • Users learn by doing, not by reading.   
  • Education: The Secret of the Instruction Manual
  • You will market the product by listing the things it will do.
  • A smart buyer looks at your claims and thinks:
  • Show me the instructions for doing that. 
  • It will be hard to get people to use the product if the instructions are hard.

Plan for use-case instructions

  • Get a list of marketable use-cases.
  • For each use-case, identify the tasks needed for successful execution.
  • Task analysis
  •  List the skills that will be needed for each task.
  • Organize the skills into skill-sets and give the instructions by skill-set.

What  is a task?

  • A task is what people need to do to produce a recognised result.
  • That is the kind of result that might appear in a job description or job interview.
  • Or the answer a person might give when asked "What did you do today."
  • A task is likely to require a whole set of skills.
  • Teachers and coaches know how to match skills to tasks.
  • Writers of instruction manuals often do not.
  •  The Secret of the Instruction Manual

What is a skill set? 

  • A skill-set is a collection of skills that could reasonably be had by one person.
  • And is sufficient to perform a specific task.
  • A  person would need a specific skill set to be qualified on that task.
  • The use scenario: a person learning a task needs just the relevant instructions.
  • That person does not waste time figuring out what instructions are needed.
  • And does not spend time studying irrelevant instructions.

Example of use-case instructions 


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