I have developed a reputation around the way I work with users that I am “training” and who display various levels of skill (or non-skill) with their computer system. From executive levels to the warehouse user my reputation for telling a new user something like “…see – I told you you were “trainable” has become noted. Naturally this statement gets many different reactions, but it is always meant as a compliment to the trainees natural ability to use their computer as a tool for accomplishing their job which they “know” how to do.
That said, in my opinion their “natural ability” to use the tool depends solely upon the application interface. Should users need to be trained or should they just be able to use an application if they know how to do their job? It is a lofty goal for sure to think that new users (who know the job they need to do) can instinctively sit down and be able to do their computer tasks without training — but one I believe in.
Now, let the record be set straight — while I may always strive for that in my program / interface design, I seldom achieve it. But like users, I’m trainable — and that is where listening to and observing users comes in. My users have very definitely trained me through the years to be more aware and observant of their needs.
Probably the best example I could give regarding user interface would be the custom order entry system that I was building a number of years back. I kept getting feedback from the primary users – the ones using it day after day – that it “just didn’t seem right to them”. I heard their “complaints” initially as that it just wasn’t the way they used to do it. However, after this went on for a few weeks I volunteered to fill-in for one of the users and do the job for a few hours myself, using my program. WOW – did I learn a lot!
I learned that my idea of efficient and what they really needed were two different things – and the program was updated within the next few days, and that truly is the way I think it should be. Yes, users ARE trainable — but I really don’t think any application user interface should be so complicated that it requires the significant training often associated with implementing something like an ERP system. Train for the job, the tool use should be instinctive.