Re: Learning styles for technology audiences

Subject: Re: Learning styles for technology audiences
From: Chris Despopoulos <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:32:01 +0000 (UTC)

SARAH SAYS:
They're looking at walk.me and its competitors, including Whatfix,
Chameleon, and Pendo. ...AND:
My issue is not that their vision includes implementing this type of
learning support tool, but that they intend to eliminate other learning
resources that may work better for some customers and hand off the content
development work to people who don't understand how to properly design and
deliver instructional content.============
I can't answer the actual question -- No, I don't know of any specific research or citations. But...

I think it's important to look at the product itself -- how complex is it? There's the ongoing argument that a well-designed GUI can and should be self-documenting. Maybe walk-throughs qualify as part of the GUI in that context.Â

In my experience, this argument works up to a point, depending entirely on the complexity of the product. You can easily debunk the old saw, "Tech writing is a dying job" by pointing out that as GUIs become more "self-documenting", the complexity we pack into apps will increase. I think this is even true on phones.Â

To the extent that the docs only spell out the steps to walk through a GUI and accomplish a task, a walk-through can cover the ground. But if you need to document dependencies, a decision matrix, definitions of settings, or other things that support more complex products, a walk-through doesn't cut it.
Another thing about a walk-through -- It can have a problem similar to the video problem of FF or RW. Assume a long set of steps. What if you only need to know about step 15 of 30? In that case, you have to start at the beginning of the walk-through and step all the way up to 15. You have to be careful that the walk-through has some way to jump in. And similar to video, search isn't obvious. I'm learning these things the hard way -- we're implementing walk-throughs in our product.

A point about text... The technology we enjoy today is largely dependent on text itself, as a concept/technology. There is a difference between text and experience... A difference between INFORMATION and experience. Text is information in a form that you can parse, reconsider at will, skim or examine, and you can recombine it. Video is information that wants to be an experience. It's really hard to do all the above with video (and walk-throughs to some degree). It would be a shame to abandon textual information in favor of pure experience... As a data format experience is not too efficient. (I have a map of the universe. Problem is, it's life-size!)
So... Apologies for not actually answering your question. But I really think you need to argue for the professionalism of what you do. Unless the product is very simple, you have a strong case for enabling the success of your customers, which adds value. Definitely, you need to talk to your customers. What do they want? How do they perceive your product? How about support? Do you need a tech support team? If you do, then you need docs... You can cut your company's support costs via docs.

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