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 10:12:09 +0000 (UTC)

A different rant -- about learning styles. You can think of a GUI as a language. It has nouns (things you select), verbs (actions you perform on nouns... commands), and modifiers (modify noun or verb... properties). So then you can ask, how do people learn a language? I think you can map that well to learning a product.
PHRASE BOOK -- A list of phrases that "get the job done", often with rudimentary grammar and vocabulary sections. This is for a tourist who just wants to know the minimum necessary. Yes, there are products for which this is appropriate and sufficient. I'm thinking of most phone apps, and maybe your average web page that's more than just content. This is what people often think of when they say "task-oriented documentation". I agree that this should ultimately disappear, and a modern GUI should make this unnecessary. Imagine a translation app in Google Glass... That would be a "GUI" that makes the phrase book obsolete for tourists.
DICTIONARY -- Definitions... For a GUI that would be a list of settings and what they mean... For the HTTP Proxy setting, you can say what an HTTP Proxy really is, under what circumstances you might need to set it, and how to tell that it is the setting you need to make. (Then you can hope that the setting's GUI is self-explanatory!) This is for people who want to go beyond the vanilla phrase book, and maybe experience more than they can by asking where the bathroom is, how much a trinket costs, or simply saying hello.

GRAMMAR -- This is where learning gets interesting. It's for people who want to be truly expressive in the language. Or for users who want to gain expertise in your product. Ok, not all products inspire (or require) expertise. But some do. For a product, this gets into how you can think through the GUI to solve your unique problems. For a reasonably complex product, there's no way to list every possible "task". Instead, you want to give users the tools to produce their own tasks/solutions within the grammar of your GUI. This is much like giving a language learner the ability to produce unique sentences... a hallmark of language acquisition.
So again, I think you have to consider the complexity of your product... And then map that to your users' goals. For users who will only ever jump into the product on disparate occasions, have no desire to remember anything about the product, and get no value out of expertise, then a GUI-only/walk-through approach should be fine. But if the product inspires a desire (or need) to gain expertise, then you have to deliver something more.
Again... My opinion. Nothing to cite here.
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