At work we had a training session on software design. The opening question was “Can we design software so that no training is needed for users to find what they want to do?” We did not look at the more difficult task of training to use the software to be productive, focusing only on getting to where they can be productive.

For this simple task a number of people thought it possible. As one coworker pointed out they had not been trained on how to use their iPhone and figured it out. And the trainers took this perspective that if we label tasks as the user would identify them, and organize their work flow well we can answer yes to our question. We can design things so that users need no training to find what they want to do.

I however, have to disagree. No doubt we can reduce to the training to as little as possible. In fact we can likely improve things so that the user needs no further training. But in saying no training is needed at all, we neglect the training that all of us familiar with computers have received at some point.

If we take a person who has never used a computer they need to understand how to use a mouse and how to recognize something to click on. It can be hard to believe we actually had to learn this, but at some time we did. In fact most of us were trained on how to use the very intuitive iPhone. It may have been watching a commercial or a friend demonstrate how you slide your finger across the screen to unlock the phone, or maybe hearing that it had a touchscreen, giving us a clue on its use.

The good thing is this training is free. If a 3 minute commercial can get you up to speed on all the basics then the training is essentially free. Even better if the design can draw upon previously learned concepts like clicking icons, scrolling, or flipping the pages of the book. Identifying this prior training provided by society and taking advantage of it is how good design becomes great design.

The power of this free training can most readily be seen in children. In just a few seconds they can see something a learn it. Growing up I only recall a few instances when young children would take the phone of the hook to talk into it. But now that phone usage is more incessant it seems as soon as a child can grab, they are trying to grab a cell phone to babble away into it.

This training has a strong affect on us. I’m always amazed when a parent complains how they can never get their child to sit still having just let the child watch a show where everyone is jumping around and shouting. The connection seems so obvious, yet we often miss the fact that by observing we are being trained. On the flip side we may wonder why our children aren’t more polite, or outgoing, or place no value in studying the Bible. Yes, the child is free to make their choices, but if they do not see these things modeled in others should we expect anything different?

We find the same issue in the church with new members. They come in excited, joyful, and interested in the truth. But if they come into a church where they are isolated, rather than welcomed in to a group that is active in Bible study, evangelism, and warm in their friendship, ultimately we fail to train them in spite of what other resources we provide.

When Peter and John boldly preached the Word and had healed a man it was noted by those that had observed them “that they had been with Jesus.” So much they had learned simply by spending time with and observing the savior that it showed in their ministry. We cannot neglect time spent with new believers and expect them to grow anymore than we can expect a child to progress in isolation. Christ has called us to make disciples, and it is a work that cannot be neglected.


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October 2011
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