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  • Best Way to ease use

    I have a program that from all the feedback I find 2 camps from the users (ok, maybe 3) if I generalize enough.
    1. 1st time user (or vague user that has spent little or no time trying before calling for help)
    2. Used at least once (or even as far as spend an hour "toying" around with the tools available
    3. Used to using the tools that they are used to using the most often (can I use the word "USE" enough in one sentence?")


    To ease the use of the program, I thought I would take another look, keeping in mind the feedback I have had from previous versions as to what is the most useful scenario

    Unfortunately I have hit a wall as to what is most important....the ole' proverbial concept of "Who is the Target Audience?" sort of thing.

    I am thinking the happy medium is the user that has run at least once, but did not do anything to read or learn how the program works?

    I know this may be a marketing or "lessen tech calls" sort of question but...for sake of the scenario, I am thinking if all tools grouped into the "Tools" menu then which is more important and should come first (if reading top-down)
    1. 1st couple of times run tools (Setup/Tutorials/How to's etc...)
    2. More than a couple times (Easy tools/Stuff I can use to learn to run things properly
    3. Stuff I use all the time to get the job done, and used most often


    or should I make the order backwards since its not hard or long to learn how to use?

    I figured I would ask here since there is a broad view of input from beginners, to advanced and you all can elaborate instead of "Its broke" or "I can't find it" but more "Its broke because this is what I did", or "I cant find it, I looked in..."

    Instinctively I know the answer will be "It depends" sort of answer but thought I would ask anyways :coffee3:
    Engineer's Motto: If it aint broke take it apart and fix it

    "If at 1st you don't succeed... call it version 1.0"

    "Half of Programming is coding"....."The other 90% is DEBUGGING"

    "Document my code????" .... "WHYYY??? do you think they call it CODE? "

  • #2
    IN my experience there are two types of user:
    Those who get it
    Those who don't

    Those who get it know what a file is vs a folder, and know how to attach a file to an email.

    Those who don't, don't, BUT they are the nicest people you will deal with.
    What I recently decided was that I was going to give those who don't, about three support calls and then put them in the VMT category (Vasting My Time)

    The idea of the VMT category is that they cost more than they are worth. After doing several 2hour (no joke) "support" calls on stupid windows stuff, they (nicely) returned the product anyway cos "it's too hard"

    The VMT category is for those you try to dissuade from using your product. For every one of them, there are 20 that get it and will keep it, use it and buy upgrades for years... cos they GET IT!

    Make sure the manual covers the basic stuff. The program shouldbe somthing a high school kid could figure out in 10 mins or the user interface is too complex, and offer to walk them through it... once only tho.

    If you are trying to develop and support as most of us small vendors are, then the VMT category will waste your valuable development time... and then wnat their money back!

    There is a reason that support is outsourced to India...
    Finally you should always be nice, no matter how frustrating they are. They are the customers and depending on your product, word gets out. It doesn't hurt to say no nicely. Its not a ego fest, its a marketplace. Even if you have the best product in the market, they are still the ones giving you their money. That earns them the right to be treated respectfully even if they are in the VMT category. I often catch myself using the "you're an idiot" tone of voice, and have to do a little more explaining nicely to recover. Support is NOT a natural talent for developers!
    Last edited by Mike Trader; 31 Oct 2007, 09:38 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Alan Cooper has targeted that exact dilemma in his book "About Face". I see that it's now in its 3rd revision, I only own the first version, so can't tell what's new in there.

      While being pretty old and the example applications used are surely outdated, the lessons he teaches are still valid. Still one of my favorite programming books.

      Amazon offers the first version for under $2.

      About face 3 (current version)

      About face (original version)

      Comment


      • #4
        The idea of the VMT category is that they cost more than they are worth. After doing several 2hour (no joke) "support" calls on stupid windows stuff, they (nicely) returned the product anyway cos "it's too hard"
        My guess is they probably returned it because you made it too hard to use.

        Then again, it really IS a function of your target market. If you are writing for Susie User, it's really quite easy to make it "too hard to use."

        The PPPS (http://www.providerpaymentpartner.com) has been in the field for about six years now. But before year one I took it to someone who really knows the users (healthcare providers, specifically individuals at healthcare providers responsible for posting insurance payments to patient accounts - i.e., a clerical position).

        It took Ken maybe five minutes tops to say " Too many features - make it simpler!"

        So I took out all the really 'cool' stuff (well, I left a few things in so it would demo with some sex appeal), and I have been very happy ever since, both with unit sales and especially with end-user support requirements - which are essentially zero.

        YMMV.

        MCM
        Michael Mattias
        Tal Systems Inc. (retired)
        Racine WI USA
        [email protected]
        http://www.talsystems.com

        Comment


        • #5
          I know the VMT category alllllll tooooo well....:exactly:
          I have actually had users on the phone walking through the wizard and when asked if they have a joystick (and even showing them the picture of the joystick) I actually hear....."Do I have a joystick?" and waiting for me to reply.

          After a bit of silence, I have to find a way to phrase the question so as not to talk down to them instead of wanting to say...."Well do you?"


          Support is NOT a natural talent for developers!
          so true...but if we can learn to program, we can learn to support
          (it all boils down to the reputation of the product, and the reputation of the support, that not only earns, but keeps the customer)
          Engineer's Motto: If it aint broke take it apart and fix it

          "If at 1st you don't succeed... call it version 1.0"

          "Half of Programming is coding"....."The other 90% is DEBUGGING"

          "Document my code????" .... "WHYYY??? do you think they call it CODE? "

          Comment


          • #6
            when asked if they have a joystick (and even showing them the picture of the joystick)
            :doh:

            (****, Steve, I can't find a "tsk-tsk" smiley thing!)

            Code:
            iRet= joyGetPos (0) 
            If iret = %MMSYERR_NODRIVER OR iret = %JOYERR_UNPLUGGED THEN
              MSGBOX "No Joy!"
            ELSE
             MSGBOX "You have a joystick and it *IS* plugged in!"
            END IF
            Last edited by Michael Mattias; 1 Nov 2007, 09:37 AM.
            Michael Mattias
            Tal Systems Inc. (retired)
            Racine WI USA
            [email protected]
            http://www.talsystems.com

            Comment


            • #7
              I see where you were going MCM, but in this case something I can not detect as it is not connected directly to the computer but a stepper motor controller that is connected to the computer, so I can not direct detect (BELIEVE me when I say I have tried every trick in the book to limit human interaction on this one.

              (Yep I will admit, I got a programmers attitude here when I say "Umkayyyy you cant tell a Joystick from a keyboard, so should I offer to buy the product back out of my own pocket to save me the lost time?"):breakpc:

              The other side of me takes a step back and wonders..."What can I do to make this process simpler?...is there something I did not think of when I wrote it?"

              The answer usually turns into "Take it to your nieces and nephews", or to your mom, or anyone that is TOTALLY clueless how it works, and see if they can make it work without assistance.
              Engineer's Motto: If it aint broke take it apart and fix it

              "If at 1st you don't succeed... call it version 1.0"

              "Half of Programming is coding"....."The other 90% is DEBUGGING"

              "Document my code????" .... "WHYYY??? do you think they call it CODE? "

              Comment


              • #8
                The answer usually turns into "Take it to your nieces and nephews", or to your mom, or anyone that is TOTALLY clueless how it works, and see if they can make it work without assistance.
                Your Mom won't know where to start, your nieces and nephews will have it down in 5 mins. This is the Dilemma.

                People either have "seat time" or they don't. Any person that has worked with a few commercial applications knows that the "file" dropdown is where you open a file, and they expect to see that or something equivalent.

                They know what progress bar is and to look at the status bar of an application for information and the help is on the right and options are what sets stuff up and on and on.

                When you get a user that does not know these things, they will take up your time and eventually decides its just too "complicated"

                Now a complex application like Photoshop, that is an example of a program that IS complicated. Nero is an example of simple program that has Waaaay to many knobs and buttons and complex dir structures and moving parts and steps and confusing messages and and and. I find it complicated and unfriendly every time I use it, yet it is the biggest burning tool.

                What i take from this, is that some people have the seat time and others don't. If a large segment of the internet population can deal with Nero, then your prog should be a no brainer. If its not, in my experience, the user belongs in the VMT category (unless you have created Photoshop II in which case you should probably write a really good manual and outsource the support!)

                Comment


                • #9
                  A lot depends upon the software and its purpose.

                  A game is quite different than a business application.

                  The price the software is sold for greatly effects the outcome.

                  If the software is expensive, the user is more likely to be committed to learning it (reading the docs), since they have a big investment in it.

                  If the software is low priced, you may get people who buy the software on impulse. Those users are less likely to take the time to read the docs and to learn the software.

                  You never want to discourage new users, no matter their reason for purchasing the software or their technical knowledge. Be prepared to spend time with beginners.

                  If too much time is spent on endless technical support and the software is sold at a low price, then the software wasn't written properly for the target market. If the target market is a lot of people who are not technically savvy, then the software must be written for them.

                  I wrote custom software for local businesses for a number of years. Everything from "mom and pop" small businesses to big companies. I never had to write a manual for the software and training new users rarely took more than an hour. The reason, was that I wrote the software to the users needs and their understanding. I made sure the software used terms they would be familiar with, rather than computer terms. Even the simple term "file" may be foreign to some people and this does not mean they are stupid. They simply are not familiar with the terms.

                  You have to consider your target market.

                  What kind of people will use your software ?

                  How computer knowledgeable will they be ?

                  What terms are they familiar with ?

                  Programmers often make the mistake of making the software work the way they personally want it to work. We may be good a programming, but often we are the novice when it comes to the task at hand.

                  For example, I wrote software for a Lumber and Building supply company.
                  I knew nothing about their business. I had to have them "teach me" first about their business and how they do things on paper, before I could attempt to write software for them. When the software (accounts receivable) was finished, it took me only a hour or so to teach an elderly woman (who never used a computer before) how to use it. No manuals. No long training sessions.

                  Why was it so easy ?

                  Because the software was written with the user in mind.

                  It is not enough to be a good programmers (writing code).
                  One must understand the customer and their needs and their experience.

                  If software is written with the market in mind, then it will be written to their needs (which includes things like their experience with computer software).

                  It is really a matter of knowing your market.

                  Even a customer who seems to be a bother, because they require too much technically support benefits you. Don't chalk it off as a waste of time. It teaches you more about your actual market. You need to know and understand the people using your software. Why did they buy it ?
                  Why are they having problems using it ? Did I target the wrong market ?
                  Was the software poorly written for that specific target market ?
                  Should my advertising have been more detailed about the product, to prevent users who can't use it from considering it.

                  Even advertising can get us in trouble.

                  ie. (what is being sold here ?)

                  "Great transportation vehicle! No Gas needed! Never worry about gas prices again. Better than a Hybrid! Perfect for short trips from home to work. Comfortable seat. Even a child can learn to drive it. Built out of space age materials (ie. Titanium, Aluminum)"

                  Sounds great doesn't it!

                  What happens when the customer buys it and finds out it is just a Bicycle ? Yes, the specs fit a high end bicycle and are accurate.

                  See the point!

                  If you advertise your software to a specific market who expect one thing, but get something different from what they expect, then they may have a tough time using it. Even something as simple as screen shots of the product can help weed out users who won't like the interface.

                  It is up to us as programmers to understand the customer base for our software.
                  Chris Boss
                  Computer Workshop
                  Developer of "EZGUI"
                  http://cwsof.com
                  http://twitter.com/EZGUIProGuy

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    BELIEVE me when I say I have tried every trick in the book to limit human interaction on this one.
                    You have? I don't recall you ever asking here. There's a huge diversity of experience here with all kinds of 'device interface' (Not me personally, but lots of others).

                    If your stepper motor looks like a joystick and you can otherwise talk to it, surely you can ask it, "Hello? Are you there?" and it it doesn't answer, well, it is either absent or indisposed.

                    "Sylvia, how do you call your loverboy?"

                    " I say, " Oh, loverboy?"

                    "And if he doesn't answer?"

                    " I say, "Oh, loverboy!"

                    "And it he still doesn't answer?"

                    .....
                    Michael Mattias
                    Tal Systems Inc. (retired)
                    Racine WI USA
                    [email protected]
                    http://www.talsystems.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      it took me only a hour or so to teach an elderly woman (who never used a computer before) how to use it. No manuals. No long training sessions.
                      Oh Chris com on... as soon as grandma gets the "overwirte existing file?" message or has to interact with a windows in any real way, you are going to be hand holding every click of the way.

                      The user I learned my lesson with, took over an hour to figure out how to attach a file to an email. This was usually done automatically but he had managed to screw up the machine so that nothing would work. Then its your job to configre the firewall, put the reigns on norton, configure tcp/ip... and on and on (that's why my app was too complicated)

                      No software operates in a vaccum any longer. Windows is so intrusive esp Vista, that if they don't have seat time, you are going to be teaching them. For us small guys its just not worth it.

                      Navigating my app is easy and intuitive. interacting with windows requires basic computer knowledge. Unless you have a game or an app that never produces any output or takes any input, your user will need to speak a little windows.

                      The preceeding comments are the opinion of the author and are based on his experience. No guarantee is implied or conveyed. Your mileage may vary... though it's doubtfull.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        > Windows is so intrusive esp Vista,

                        Not if you work WITH IT. Windows is a terrific environment for applications.

                        Of course first you have to get your head out of the 'MS-DOS Sands.'
                        Michael Mattias
                        Tal Systems Inc. (retired)
                        Racine WI USA
                        [email protected]
                        http://www.talsystems.com

                        Comment

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