When Worlds Collide: Improving UX by Applying Progressive Info Disclosure


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Do you often feel like there’s more to developing technical product content than user guides, reference manuals, and contextual help? Do you sometimes find that your information deliverables are discontinuous or that the content is redundant between them? Would you like to have more impact on your business and the overall user experience of your product through your content? If so, join Andrea as she presents the human factors concept of “progressive disclosure” and applies it to the architecture and design of information! Andrea will discuss how to approach your information architecture and design from the user’s goals and the tasks that she needs to perform — revealing just the information the user needs, just when she needs it — so that you can positively affect the design of the product and improve the user experience. She’ll also describe the team-interaction considerations necessary to make the approach successful in a real, team-oriented, cross-functional product-development environment.

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When Worlds Collide: Improving UX by Applying Progressive Info Disclosure

  1. 1. When Worlds Collide:Improving the User Experience byApplying Progressive InformationDisclosurePresented byAndrea L. Ames @aamesIBM Senior Technical Staff Member /Total Information Experience Strategist & Architectat 2013 Intelligent Content Conference (#ICC2013)on 8 February 2013in San Francisco, CA USA
  2. 2. About Andrea Technical communicator since 1983 Areas of expertise  Information architecture and design and interaction design for products and interactive information  Information and product usability—from analysis through validation  User-centered design and development process IBM Senior Technical Staff Member UCSC in Silicon Valley Extension Tech Comm and Writing certificate coordinator and instructor STC Fellow, past president (2004-05), and past member of Board of Directors (1998-2006) ACM Distinguished Engineer (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 2 2
  3. 3. Agenda Progressive disclosure (PD) Traditional information PD The new twist – applying it to the information experience, in particular the UI Workshop: Quick steps to PD and group heuristic evaluation …And more! Resources (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 3 3
  4. 4. According to Wikipedia…progressive disclosure (PD): “To move complex and less frequently used options out of the main user interface and into secondary screens“ An interaction design technique Often used in human computer interaction Helps maintain the focus of a users attention by reducing clutter, confusion, and cognitive workload Improves usability by presenting only the minimum data required for the task at hand Sequences actions across several screens Reduces feelings of overwhelm for the user Reveals only the essentials and helps the user manage the complexity of feature-rich sites or applications Moves from "abstract to specific" via “ramping up” the user from simple to more complex actions (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 4
  5. 5. PD for interaction isn’t new Around since at least the early 1980s (Jack Carroll, IBM) Jakob Nielsen has been discussing it for ages"Progressive disclosure is the best tool so far: show people the basics first, and once they understand that, allow them to get to the expert features. But dont show everything all at once or you will only confuse people and they will waste endless time messing with features that they dont need yet". In information development, PD can be applied to content, as well (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 5
  6. 6. What is progressiveinformation disclosure? In an information experience, enables you (the author) to provide the right information in the right place at the right time Assumes “competent performer” to “proficient performer” is stage of use (backup) in which users will spend most of their time when using the product–not novices; not experts Defer display of novice information, background, concepts, extended reference material and examples, etc., until the user needs and requests it Reduces complexity by revealing only the essentials for a current task and then reveals more as users advance through tasks (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 6
  7. 7. What is progressiveinformation disclosure? (cont.) Reveals information in an ordered manner  Each layer builds on the previous one in a flow that provides progressively more information  Provides only the details that are necessary at a given time, in a specific context  Provides assistance when necessary--not information created just to cover an empty widget  Do not repeat information; for example, do not repeat field labels in hover text.  “A guided journey, not a scavenger hunt" Designed around the ideal information experience–with no resource or time constraints Implemented realistically with necessary constraints (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 7
  8. 8. A rose by any other name… Technical communicators have been “doing” PD for a long time We might not call it PD The best example of traditional PD: Well-architected, traditional, online help  Primary “layer”: Contextual and task topics  Secondary “layers”: prereqs, background, related concepts and reference, etc. (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 8
  9. 9. Traditional, contextual help (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 9
  10. 10. The problem with traditional assistance andtraditional information development methods Typical UI-text development process:  Written by developers of the UI  Edited by tech pubs (best case; often copy edit capturing only capitalization and punctuation issues and typos) Typical help development process:  Writers attend (some) design meetings, keeping track of the number of UI panels in the product, which typically include one help button per panel  Writers develop one help topic for each UI panel in the product  Pop-up help/hover help provided for all, or no, controls  Task help describes how to complete the fields in the UI panel :  Pop-up/hover help content repeated in task help  Writers cut and paste from specs Typical library design and development process:  Deliverables developed based on development expectations and history vs. user needs  Other (non-help) deliverable content identified without regard for task help also being created Extensive redundancy across UI text, help, and other deliverables (like books) Design process accomplished within resource and time constraints, not according to ideal or customer needs (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 10
  11. 11. What’s wrong with this picture? (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 11
  12. 12. The next PDevolution/revolution The UI Add value Get even closer to the task than the help Influence the design of the task and task ecosystem Drive reductions in words Prioritize resources around client value (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 12
  13. 13. WorkshopLet’s get our hands dirty! 
  14. 14. Quick survey…do you know: DITA? information architecture? topics? topic-based content architecture? topic-based content development? (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 14
  15. 15. Quick steps to PD1. Consider your user and their stages of use (backup)2. Start with the product: Is the UI as obvious and self-evident as possible 1. Consider the types of content you need to provide  Control assistance  Panel assistance 2. And the types of mechanisms available  Persistent UI text that doesn’t require a user gesture  Simple UI gestures your users will tolerate3. Can you improve “help?”4. How are you supporting use of the product with non-UI, task-oriented deliverables?5. What issues will keep you from implementing this kind of approach? (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 15
  16. 16. User, scenario Content creator/technical writer Information architect Use IA Workbench to create a topic model for a DITA document Expectations, needs (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 16
  17. 17. UI  First view: “welcome” Task flow All assistance about the UI should be in the UI Persistent – absolutely necessary User controllable – useful, might be needed by some users (obvious to get to) Imagine you are a consultant or advisor, looking over the user’s shoulder; what does she need to know? (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 17
  18. 18. Just beyond the UI:Various flavors of “help”  Stop yelling! Repeating the same thing, over and over, does not make the message more valuable, useful, or enhance users’ comprehension (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 18
  19. 19. Completely divorced from the UI…or is it?  Doc library Another form of help? What kind of content delivered in this way? Is the content we’re delivering this way valuable (at all)? Or the most valuable for the delivery mechanism? (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 19
  20. 20. The biggest stumbling block(s)…What keeps us from applying this approach? We didn’t know about it or how to do it We don’t think it’s the right thing to do Others (non-content people, like engineers) don’t understand it and/or buy into it Processes and process artifacts don’t support it Tools don’t support it Other issues? (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 20
  21. 21. Need we say more?Probably 
  22. 22. PD revolution prerequisite:Think More, Write Less“Think more” means… “Write less” means…  Ensuring that the UI is as easy to Owning and being responsible for explain as possible by contributing the information experience to designing interaction the right way the first time Not making our users think about  Starting from the user’s immediate how to use the product task context and working your way Not falling back on old paradigms: out to more general information— make “looking for” the answer a  One help topic per UI screen last resort (because it is)  How many books are we going to  Not forcing users to read more write? than they have to Not letting the developers think for  Prioritizing what you cover and you where—for example, using scenarios Being assertive – making sure  Not just “papering the product” you’re involved throughout the with traditional documentation design process (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 22
  23. 23. Why do we need to change? Traditional deliverables, developed by traditional methods, are not working:  Reference that “papers the product”  Generalized user-guide info  “Type your name in the Name field” help  Most documentation focuses on functional information, not domain information, or the mapping from domain to product function—written from the inside out  Much of that information covers the large number of tasks users need to do – such as installing, migrating, etc. – that are not business goals  Online libraries stuffed with everything we produce Documentation is often compensation for unusable products—a finger in an eroding dam of bad product design Customers and users don’t read documentation—reading documentation is never a business goal  Information is difficult to find and often does not address the user’s issue Customers do not perceive information as separate from product Customers look more and more to forums, knowledge bases, and other social sources of info vs. product doc Can you afford not to change—do you have the resource to continue building and maintaining content that customers don’t need or use? (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 23
  24. 24. How can we think moreand write less? Prioritize using deep understanding of users (scenarios, use cases, etc.)  Sometimes this means not writing something  Most often, it means covering it in an unfamiliar way (to the team, customers, and even you) Design deliverables to support users’ efficient and effective use of information in the context of their tasks (embedded assistance, contextual information, examples, samples, concrete information, take cues from community-written info) Own your portion of the responsibility for the usability of the product—the information experience begins in the product (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 24
  25. 25. How can we think more andwrite less? (cont.) If the design discussion around an aspect of the product seems complicated or difficult to you, it probably is—this is where your customers most need you!  In the design discussion, raise the issue with the dev team, contribute ideas for improving the design.  Look for gaps in user-goal and user-task flows: between UI panels, between tasks, between different UIs (admin versus end user client, e.g.), between products.  Ask questions about what you don’t know (they are probably the same as user’s questions).  If you can’t get product changes, or get them right away, find ways to improve the user experience without adding topics… embedded information, “show me” demo, or tutorial. Start with the user and provide the right information within the UI’s task flow (embedded assistance). Determine what’s highest-value for your users—examples, samples, tasks, tutorials—and focus on those; don’t try to cover every part of the product with every kind of info and deliverable. (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 25
  26. 26. How can we think more andwrite less? (cont.) Document the UI in the UI  Don’t rewrite what’s in the UI in hover help and help pane  Don’t include unnecessary hover help and help-pane content When considering additional documentation  Focus on user tasks—not UI tasks—and then on supporting reference and conceptual information  Focus concepts on the user’s task domain, not the tool  Don’t duplicate UI help and hover-help content in other deliverables When testing information, take user input into consideration, but don’t just do whatever they say  Understand the root causes of their concerns  Design the right solution for the issue at hand and validate it  Typically, users don’t know what the root cause is; they only know how to articulate what they like and don’t like; base design decisions on observable performance, if possible What we do requires thinking! There is no cookbook or recipe for implementing it! (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 26
  27. 27. ResourcesJakob Nielsen, AlertboxDemystifying Usability blogTime-Tripper UI patternsInteractionDesign.orgThis presentation on slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/aames/201302-worlds-collide- improveuxthrupid-workshop-aamesSTC proceedings paper on stages of use (backup): http://www.stc.org/images/proceedings/Documents/enabl ingprogressivei1.htm (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 27 27
  28. 28. Questions? (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 28 28
  29. 29. Contacting/following/connectingwith AndreaE-mail: aames@pobox.comTwitter: @aames, @TMWLala, @strategicIAFacebook: www.facebook.com/alames, http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Strategic-IA/313151912099313LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/andreaamesBlog: thinkmorewriteless.wordpress.com/ (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 29 29
  30. 30. BackupStages of Use
  31. 31. “Stages of use” in designing and writingembedded assistance layers of PD (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 31
  32. 32. “Stages of use” in designing and writingembedded assistance layers of PD , cont. (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 32
  33. 33. Cautionary note about stages of use inEA design Stages of use apply to multiple user dimensions; for example:  Domain knowledge  Computer use  Your tool  Tools like your tool A user who is a novice in your tool and tools like your tool might be an expert in the domain and the use of computers in general. The same user might be an expert with most parts of your UI and a novice in some, or might be an expert in some parts of a task flow and a novice in others. You must consider the many dimensions of your users before arbitrarily applying a single “stage of use” label to them Consider the appropriate information for the point in time for which you are designing: does the user need tool information, domain information, or both? Thankfully, progressive disclosure enables you to support multiple levels of users throughout their use of the various parts of the product and through their growth in domain and tool knowledge and experience (c) Andrea L. Ames, 2006-2013 33