WritersUA 2014: Pre-conference workshops

March 4, 2014

NOTE: All my conference posts are written on my tablet so formatting and typos may abound. I’ll fix them up as best I can, but some fixes will have to wait until I get home.

Applying cognitive techniques to user assistance (UA) (Ray Gallon)

Agenda indicated this would be quite an academic session… deductive reasoning, Gestalt, constructionism etc.

Deduce from one task how to do another. We often forget this when creating UA.

Gestalt… Stable precepts in a noisy world. e.g. face in bathroom sink furniture (taps = eyes, spigot = nose, drain = mouth). Seeing the whole then dig into the component parts. The whole is other than the sum of its parts.

Reification: seeing something that isn’t really there as we make intuitive connections. We fill in the blank spaces to see something that’s not there.

John Carroll – we learn better if not everything is stated /there. Too much info is often overkill. By users learning themselves, they retain info better. Fine line between leaving stuff out and frustrating the user.

Gestalt grouping principles: proximity; similarity

James Gibson’s idea of affordance.

Individuals reject complexity and unfamiliarity to make sense of the noise. As they gain info, they will add complexity etc. How do we make it attractive for our users to do that?

Constructivism – learning comes from doing. Self-directed learners acquire and act on new knowledge. Do we do this for our users? Internet often gives us advanced info without the preceding knowledge, so while you get the knowledge, you are not an expert.

How do we make our UA facilitating to help the user learn what to do?

Learning is an active and SOCIAL process. We communicate with a computer as though it’s a person… We even yell at it!

We collaborate to arrive at shared understanding.

Experience is more important than taxonomy. In traditional static documentation, the product gives meaning to the docs. The doc cannot standalone without the product. For software, we can embed UA within the product. People learn best by doing and making connections to the process.

Is memorising a procedure necessary for competence?

How do we learn concepts by doing? Embed procedural UA directly into the interface; embed simple concepts directly into the UA.

‘religion of minimalism’

What happens when we learn by doing? We remember independent self-contained scripts (e.g. restaurant, airplane, clothing store) that have commonalities.

Learners who can generalise from one context to another learn better. Give users hooks that allow them to connect different bits of info. Connections = networks.

UI is communication (Everett McKay)

Seemed to be a promotion for his book (UI is Communication), at least initially and at the end. BTW, the book looked good — he passed it around for us to leaf through.

His PPT slides were very dense and he spoke very quickly so I’ll have to wait to get the PPT before I can summarise it accurately.

Had some excellent examples.


See also:


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