Principles of Progressive Adoption--
In my last blog entry I introduced the concept of progressive user adoption, moving a user further along in terms of the frequency of use, number of features used, or the depth of functionality (moving from basic to advanced). This week I will start to explore principles of progressive adoption, especially where user assistance can be involved.
Priniciple One: Don't interfere with core functionality.
Keep the basic tasks (the prime reason for the user being in your application) easy to do. This could be Clippy's fatal flawhe intrudes when I don't need him, forcing me to get off task to dismiss him. His lame attempts to be precious do not make me want to kill him more, just kill him more slowly and in imaginative ways.
How do you apply this principle? For one, when the user assistance intervenes, make the intervention easy to ignore without action. If you force the user to dismiss the intervention, you are detracting from the core experience. Mirosoft Project does this fairly well. For example, if you add a resource to a task, an icon lets you know there is a tip. If you click the icon, a popup opens asking do you want to increase the work or shorten the duration? Based upon what mode you are in, it has already made the appropriate decision and has marked it as the default choice. If you just plow ahead and keep working, the popup goes away and the default choice stays in effect. So as a user, I get two opportunities to ignore the progressive help. I learn to ignore the tip icon when I know what the tip is about, and I can just keep working when I get the tip without having to select the default choice. I do have to click back into the desktop, however; it would be even better if I did not have to even do that.
Probably one of the most important dynamics in progressive adoption is "readiness," the user must be at a state that is ready to accept the change. Until then, coaching or coaxing the user to a new level of product use can detract from the quality of the core experience and you end up losing the user [insert clever fishing metaphor hereit's early in the morning and I'm too tired to do it myself].
So the bottom line in progressive user adoption is to measure all interventions against the yardstick of "Does this interrupt the core task?" If the answer is yes, change the intervention.