Do people use tutorials? Some statistics

Subject: Do people use tutorials? Some statistics
From: Richard Danca <rdanca -at- UIE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 1997 17:18:22 -0500

One of my colleagues recently posted this message to another list.
It's about some statistics User Interface Engineering collected on
what kinds of learning media users (say they) use,

We thought techwriters would be interested as well (See the final

Here's the message:

Date: Thu, 28 Aug 1997 21:06:38 +0000
From: "Carolyn Snyder" <csnyder -at- uie -dot- com>
To: utest -at- hubcap -dot- clemson -dot- edu
Subject: RE: Online tutorial vs. classroom training
Message-ID: <199708290107 -dot- AA06969 -at- world -dot- std -dot- com>

Here are some interesting (but possibly useless) statistics related to
usage of various learning media. Since we do a lot of usability
testing of all kinds of products, we have a standard questionnaire
that we ask users to fill out. One of the questions is "Before you use
a computer application for the first time, which of the following do
you typically do?" (or some similar wording).

Taking a sample of 34 usability test participants with a wide
variety of user profiles (let's call them computer-literate general
software users), they claim that:

74% (25) skim the User's Guide
50% (17) skim online documentation
44% (15) run interactive tutorials (no data on thoroughness)
41% (14) skim the reference manual
26% (9) skim reference or hint cards
18% (6) thoroughly read reference or hint cards
15% (5) skim written tutorials
15% (5) thoroughly read written tutorials
9% (3) thoroughly read the User's Guide
9% (3) read online documentation
6% (2) thoroughly read the reference manual

Please take these numbers with a block of salt and apply all standard
disclaimers... these numbers were self-reported, it's a small sample,
this data was collected over a year ago, and we have no metric for
what "skim" or "thoroughly" mean. Also, I don't have any numbers
pertaining to the context of the original question - online vs.

However -- and this is what prompted me to dredge up these numbers -- it
seems like there's a significant percentage of users out there (half?)
who generally don't run interactive tutorials. If Marketing is
pressuring the development team that the product is unshippable
without a tutorial, maybe it's time to remind them that what makes a
product sell and what makes it usable are often two different (though
equally important) things. Maybe all they need is a sizzling demo.

Hoping there is at least one technical writer out there who sleeps
better tonite because of the 74% who skim the manual,

Carolyn Snyder User Interface Engineering
csnyder -at- uie -dot- com 800 Turnpike Street, Suite 101
(508) 975-4343 North Andover, MA 01845
fax: (508) 975-5353
Send me your postal address, and I'll send
you a free issue of our newsletter, Eye For Design

Richard A. Danca User Interface Engineering
richard -dot- danca -at- uie -dot- com 800 Turnpike St., Suite 101
rdanca -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com North Andover, MA 01845
508-975-4343, 508-975-5353 (fax) USA

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