Systems Training

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Gloria Gery once told me that all systems training is compensatory for poor design.  In other words, if the design is perfect, no training is needed.

"Just remember: you're not a 'dummy,' no matter what those computer books claim. The real dummies are the people who–though technically expert–couldn't design hardware and software that's usable by normal consumers if their lives depended upon it." - (Walter Mossberg)

This thought has stuck with me as I've designed every increasingly complex systems.  I've decided I agree with her, and that it's not a bad thing.

Before you start sending emails, this doesn't say:

As a designer, I strive to design the most intuitive systems and applications I can.  I go into a design knowing some training will probably be necessary, but I don't give in to the temptation to say, when faced with a design compromise, "Oh, that will be covered in systems training."

My approach has been to design a system as intuitively as possible, and then, based on user feedback during testing, add instructions to the screens and information to reference and training.  The key is frequent and iterative testing.  Get a design out in front of as many people as possible.  When faced with an issue, either integrate a solution into the application, add on-screen instructions, add online reference or training, or add it to a training class curriculum.  This "Frequently Asked Questions" method of systems documentation and training allows the trainers to focus on issues that realistically come up instead of spending time and effort documenting functions and behaviors that are well accepted by everyone.

Now you may let the emails fly.  :)