Minimalism - It's Really About the User!

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1. Minimalism – It’s Really About the User! STC Conference 2014 Barbara Beresford flickr: Pamla J. Eisenberg 2. Contents ã My Path to Minimalism ã What is…
  • 1. Minimalism – It’s Really About the User! STC Conference 2014 Barbara Beresford flickr: Pamla J. Eisenberg
  • 2. Contents • My Path to Minimalism • What is Minimalism? • A Brief Survey of Influences • The Nurnberg Funnel • Systems Design • Minimalist Design • The Psychology of Learning • Active Learning • Paradox of Sense-Making • Using Minimalism flickr: 55Laney69
  • 3. My Path to Minimalism • M.A. Theater, 1 yr. Ph.D. study, actor training.* • 22 years as writer/editor, with special expertise as impatient user. • Heard about minimalism from STC. • Took independent study at U of MN: – JoAnn Hackos, Information Development: Managing Your Documentation, Projects, Portfolios, and People, 2007. – DITA pilot (didn’t work, but that’s another story) . – I was a minimalist, but didn’t realize it! * Surprisingly helpful for understanding minimalism.
  • 4. A Brief Survey of Influences • Robert Horn, Information Mapping, 1970s; structured authoring, 1980s • John Carroll, founder, User Interface Institute at IBM, 1984; The Nurnberg Funnel: Designing Minimalist Instruction for Practical Computer Skills, 1990 • Topic-based authoring (single-source authoring) • Content strategy, content management • Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) V 1.0, 2005, • Synthesis, Presentation, Formatting, and Encoding (SPFE) Architecture, 2012,
  • 5. What is Minimalism? • A theory of learning developed by psychologist John Carroll at IBM in the 1980s. • Studied system-based tutorials for personal computer programs; he found the tutorials to be very ineffective. • In an initial study, the learners performed 12 hours of self- instruction. Not a single learner was able to complete the assigned tasks without serious difficulty. flickr: The Shopping Sherpa
  • 6. The Nurnberg Funnel • Idiomatic expression in German: to funnel something in • Georg Philipp Harsdörffer, Poetic funnel. The art of German poetry and rhyme, without using the Latin language, poured in VI hours, 1647 • Carroll’s ironic metaphor – Learning is not passive. – Learners want to drive the experience, based on their existing knowledge, goals, and desire to understand the subject. Wikipedia: 1910 poster stamp
  • 7. Systems Design • Systems model of instructional design: – Comprehensive coverage of all system features/functions. • Results of his study: – People didn’t follow the instructions (1 out of 20 did). – People jumped forward and backward. – People followed their own agenda. – People made mistakes and veered off course, and then got lost. Flickr: Duane Romanell
  • 8. Minimalist Design • Carroll then designed and tested new tutorials that: – Started learners immediately on meaningful, realistic tasks. – Reduced the amount of reading and passive activity. – Helped make errors, error recovery less traumatic, more productive. flickr: Stephan van Es
  • 9. Comparison Systems Design Minimalist Design Comprehensive coverage of system functions Selective coverage, based on key user goals Here’s what we made! How do I do X, Y, and Z? Welcome to system Conceptual model of system Hardware/software maintenance Catalog of related products Prerequisite skills Learn by reading Drill and practice Follow all the steps in order Brief orientation Prerequisite tasks Learn by doing, start right away Modular, self-contained topics Support error recognition/recovery
  • 10. Example – Legacy Document • Organized by menus across top of UI: Menu Name Content Organization File menu Configuration preferences, viewing info., and working locally Investigator menu Each tab and its tasks from L to R Search menu Search functionality Supervisor menu Each tab and its tasks from L to R Print menu Each tab and its tasks Admin menu Each tab and its tasks Misc menu Each tab and its tasks
  • 11. Example – Minimalist Documents • Organized by user role and use case: – Officer User Guide – Investigator User Guide – Administrator User Guide
  • 12. The Psychology of Learning • We are complex, emotional beings, not machines that run learning scripts: – We want to do something meaningful (to us). – We need to be our own sense-makers and be in control. – We have our own expertise and need to relate what we are learning to our knowledge and experience. – We have many reasons for our behavior, some of which we understand, and some of which we do not understand! flickr: dingler1109
  • 13. Active Learning • People need to act, be engaged, to struggle. • Capitalize on what learners do spontaneously: – Modular content supports users when they jump around. – Mental models help users understand and explore the system. – Help users recognize errors and recover from them. • Users can learn more quickly and retain the content longer. • Tap into and foster the motivation to learn! flickr: dingler1109
  • 14. Paradox of Sense-Making • People are too busy learning to make much use of the instructions. – Is learning a systematic, organized process? – Are we clear about our goal? Is it relevant to us? Do we agree with it? – Do we know what steps will accomplish our goal? – When we make a mistake, do we know it? – Can we find our way back? – Do we know when we are successful? – Will we remember what we learned tomorrow? flickr: bikeracer
  • 15. Conceptualizing Minimalism • If minimalism is new for you: – Analyzing content for minimalist objectives may be a different approach, but it aligns with the technical writer’s professional purpose of serving the user. – Visualize how you like to learn. Can you create that experience for your users? – *The Magic “If” from actor training! flickr: Shelly S
  • 16. Is There a Formula? • There is no minimalist formula or checklist. It’s what Carroll called the “art of design”: – Address the user’s business goals for using your system. – Empathize with the user’s situation and concerns. – Visualize how he/she will interact with the system. – Observe the user’s environment and listen to the user’s goals. – Make decisions. – Test and iterate. flickr: Dan Foy
  • 17. WWWWH • Who is using the system? (user) • What is the user doing? (goal) • Why/when is the user doing it? (context) • How is the user doing it? (steps) Note: content that doesn’t address these questions should be omitted. (Or moved to an appendix.)
  • 18. Usability • Is the system intuitive to use? – Is the user interface (UI) intuitive? Is the UI terminology accessible? If not, plan clear explanations. (If needed, advocate with the developers for improvements.) – What is the users’ mental model for performing their key business tasks? Does it match how the tasks are actually performed in the system? If there is a gap, identify how it will be explained, including any workarounds. – What common and serious errors could the user experience? Plan how you will you help the user identify and recover from these errors. flickr: Andrew_N
  • 19. References • John Carroll (currently Inf. Sci. & Tech. professor at Penn. State) – The Nurnberg Funnel: Designing Minimalist Instruction for Practical Computer Skills, 1990. – Minimalism Beyond the Nurnberg Funnel, 1998. – Human-Computer Interaction in the New Millennium, 2002. • JoAnn Hackos, Information Development: Managing Your Documentation, Projects, Portfolios, and People, 2007. • Donald Norman, The Design of Everyday Things, 1988. • Mark Baker, Every Page is Page One, 2013.
  • 20. Questions? Contact me: Barbara Beresford LinkedIn
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