help and learning
Help and training generally aren’t exciting features, but until the ultimate user interface is developed, that by virtue of its great design conveys all possible information and eliminates any and all user questions – they will continue to form part of the overall user experience.
At the same time as practices and licensees are striving to get the most out of xplan and expand usage and adoption levels, the need for help, guidance and training increases. The tools in xplan and the solutions being built with them are easier than ever to use, but users still have plenty questions about them and may not be making best use of the tools, even if they are getting a result at the end.
So the ability for users to quickly find information about individual components, context and be guided in achieving tasks, therefore remains a consideration to maximising efficiency and implementing best practices.
With that in mind, the videos below are a demo of an extremely basic system we’ve recently had good feedback on, for giving users more help and guidance within some of the advice tools. In this instance we’ve applied parts of it to Risk Researcher.
Despite being simplistic, there are some key benefits:
Information at the click of a button
Gives users help and information, right there and then when they want it. All within the system and without cramming the interface;
Because this is contextual, it can be used to guide users through a process, point out hotspots or main areas and used to tackle common support problems or questions
Promote good data
You can’t automate or work with data that isn’t there. The lack of data being recorded (and correctly) is a problem for a lot of businesses when they start trying to improve processes. Let’s reinforce the value of this to users;
Highlight automation and linked components
The opportunities for automation and how components are linked with each other, isn’t always apparent at first glance. Highlight this directly to encourage full use of the system and other modules
Opportunities for personalisation
A personalised experience with the software, based on the businesses and users preferences, can improve the overall experience. Highlight these options for streamlining to improve ease of use and efficiency
Help and Information Layer: Active
In this mode the user is made visually aware they have entered a help and information layer. The separation of the layers can aide in making hotspots or guidance systems clearer as well as keeping users focused on getting information.
Some of the main elements and good benefits for users and the end user experience from the demo above:
Visually alert and directs users to the key items of the tool. Very easy to use different icons or colours to represent hierarchy of important / optional items.
These don’t just instantly provide information on what individual elements do, but see this as an opportunity to highlight the benefits of automation, linked components and where data will automatically pull from, in order to encourage better fuller adoption of the tool and better utilisation of the system.
For example: Needs analysis can seem time consuming at first glance, highlighting the import ability and automation with the cover amounts encourages users to better use the tool and data recording.
These benefits are further reinforced with iconography and colour.
Alert users to common support questions or issues
For example, ‘Add Existing Cover’ can result in support queries as it’s not intended to feedback into client focus, but some users expect it does. Also due to the basic nature of adding the data here, this often produces sub-optimal replacement of advice tables or comparisons, leading to post-merge editing that wouldn’t be necessary if it was recorded fully in the first place.
Large businesses have their systems setup and configured for their business model and processes. The most basic level of this is through all the various built in settings. Many small or medium size practices don’t necessarily know what parts and elements can be configured.
Small details like setting your global options or your preferred Needs Analysis can give a more personalised experience that streamlines processes and the user experience. By highlighting what these options are we, at least make users aware of things that can be improved, not just assume they know this can be done.
Help and Information Layer: Passive
The active information layer can be useful depending on the overall guidance mechanisms being used. The obvious limit with it is, that it temporarily gets in the way of the user using the tool.
In passive mode the user can still do everything with the tool whilst still being guided and having access to all the help and information.
You can see we’ve used a small icon here to benignly indicate the tooltip to the user, but we could just as easily make the elements themselves tooltips accessible or even incorporate tooltips methods that also support touch. The range of possibilities is very broad.
Some of the highlights specifically in regards to the above demo:
Guidance to key elements
As users are getting use to Risk Researcher (or if they don’t use it often), missing the ‘Fee Disclosure’ and/or the ‘Replacement Advice’ items, can be common place.
This highlights the importance of the Actions menu directly, whilst not taking up space or interfering with the users experience.
The solution is responsive to the scenario, for example: if no replacement advice is being recommended then the guide and tooltip simply don’t appear for that element.
Maximising efficiency and data through knowledge
The ‘Record’ and implement buttons are a great example of how, just because you can get a result out of the system, doesn’t mean you are using it in the most efficient manner
If a user doesn’t take advantage of this feature, they may be losing out on several efficiencies and getting the best possible data automatically recorded for them. Of course, if they use ‘Implement’ at the wrong time, it can cause all sorts of data and then document problems.
With this approach, not only is the information instantly available but the benefits and possible interlinking with other components are also highlighted.
Pro-active tackling of common user and support questions
Building a powerful and automated replacement of advice section for templates can be a massive time saver, as this can be an incredibly time consuming aspect of the advice generation phase.
One of the most common support and user queries we’ve seen over the years, is from users striving to use this section in Risk Researcher. Often the ‘replacement of advice’ can be missed, as its tucked away in the action menu. Even when they find it and use it, ensuring the policies are properly linked with risk researcher then, becomes a common cause of support and help questions.
This not only guides the user there, but highlights the importance of this linking and directly showing the user the correct way for this to occur.
Highlight Settings: Redux
Again, a common thing we’ve seen in even medium size businesses writing good quantities of risk, is the default commission rates not being set for preferred products.
To an extent maybe the growing movement to Fee for Service models may make this irrelevant, but if users are reminded or know they can configure this (and other options) to make things easier and quicker, than that’s a better outcome than just assuming they might know this can be done.
Wait, tooltips have text, users don’t read!
A classical axiom that anybody on a support desk or training people on software, can attest to.
It isn’t that users don’t read, its that they a) skim and scan text; and b) software isn’t a book. People are drawn to objects and actions onscreen, this disrupts the flow we typically engage with when reading.
So getting users to read walls of text is definitely out. Copywriters and UI/UX devs spend time crafting experiences that use icons and as few words as possible. Unfortunately, everything can’t always be conveyed with a couple of words and an icon.
While users are adverse to reading when driving the software, that same barrier lowers when they know they need help or have to seek assistance. So, concise tooltips with petitioned text, incorporating: representative colours, iconography, images, video and even audio (all of which can be done) can provide a localised and context aware (object based) approach that is popular with users to, impart instant information.
This is by no means a panacea to support never getting questions on those items again – there will always be users who prefer to email or talk to someone – but most users do find these advantageous, and will utilise them when done well.
The range of ideas and possibilities that have stemmed from this simple approach has been great. We’ve mentioned guidance a bit, in the article and in general, the demos above are a light touch to that. Taking this idea further you can imagine it applied to a more active guidance system – one that responds to the users actions and let’s them get work done, while learning and training, right in the system.
That’s just one example and there’s plenty of others. it’s always exciting to be putting pieces together than might make doing things, that bit easier and better for users.
As always, we hope the demos and the discussion have been food for thought or given you bigger better ideas. Help and Training aren’t necessarily exciting topics, but they are a component that contributes to maximising usage of the system and encouraging best practices.
They are also powerful instruments for reducing support queries and potentially user down time. Playing all those roles and reducing potential frustrations or issues is what makes help and training, part of the overall user experience that needs to be taken into account with all the solutions we utilise or build.
Further discussion: Help and Training
While putting this article together, we started to explore the current state of help and training resources. There are a lot of great resources out there for users already, but the highly accessible and instantaneous nature of the approach shown above, does illustrate a contrast between some of those current resources.
Is there a way these existing resources could be better utilised to improve the user experience and help and training outcomes?