Friday, October 23, 2009

Working Out With On-Line Help

For my birthday last month my family decided to buy me the Beatles Rock Band video game, an appropriate gift given my long standing interest with in the Fab Four. But I'm not really a game player and didn't have a game system, so we also decided to purchase a Nintendo Wii and the Wii Fit package to go along with the present.

While I really enjoy the Beatles Rock band, I have become somewhat addicted to the Wii Fit (with positive results on my overall health and posture), and feel like I'm missing something if I don't spend at least a few minutes each day doing at least a few of the exercises.

While working out one morning last week, I had a revelation of the Technical Documentation kind - I suddenly realized that I was in fact working out using what amounted to the Wii Fit's on-line help system.

There is nothing that we would label as traditional on-line help, no Help menu item, no F1 button to press and no self contained documentation - but it has Help all the same.

When you start a new exercise the virtual trainer immediately gives you a demo of the exercise. But just that once, after that it' an option available at the start if you want to refresh your memory.

And note how the Wii Fit uses a simple star system to give you feedback on how well you have done that task in the past - a simple, effective and intuitive feedback loop.

Once you start working on an exercise or task the trainer shows you the moves but also adds step by step instructions with using visual (movement and graphics), audio (voice) and text (on screen instructions).

I have also noticed that as you get better at a task and move up the levels, it makes assumptions on skill level and delivers less basic information. i.e it tracks your usage of the system.

What I am getting is the correct information to complete a task at the point I need it.

I do not have to go find Help on how to do something - the Help finds me as I do a specific task.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, watching my teenage daughter do her homework made me think about the way we need to redesign content structure, so my introduction to video games has made me rethink the way we should be delivering on-line assistance.

Why are we once again force fitting the book paradigm into software assistance and electronic delivery.?Integrated context sensitive help shouldn't just mean that I get a "topic" or "Chapter" when I hit the F1 key - it should mean that the software delivers the information I need at the point I need it based on what I'm doing and how many times I've done it before.

(Apologies for the quality of the photos - took them this morning with my iPhone after I thought about doing this blog post.)

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