Topic: minimal manuals and guided exploration

topics > computer science > Group: document preparation

graphical user interface
testing and evaluating user interfaces

children vs. adults
direct engagement and theater in a user interface
disorientation in a user interface
ease of learning
error safe systems
learning a programming language
minimal language systems
modes in a user interface
novice users and the UserInterface
software documentation
training wheels for the user interface
understanding systems


With guided exploration and minimal manuals, users learn a system by using it. Instead of describing all aspects of a system, the goal is to orient the user and allow exploration. The system needs to be intuitive and easy to use.

Natural learning often involves exploration. Detailed instructions are seldom available. (cbb 3/07)

Subtopic: guided exploration -- trial-and-error, problem solving up

Quote: guided exploration is closely related to discovery learning, e.g., Bruner; teach with trial-and-error learning by the student, not by teaching the facts [»willTR4_1992]
Quote: problem-solving requires exploration instead of just search [»hewiC4_1985]
Quote: problem solving requires exploration: no initial state, pre-defined operations, or goal state

Subtopic: minimalist UI up

Quote: rules for a minimalist UI -- no wasted actions, no retyping, automation, defaults; smallest actions do the most useful things; no pop-up menus, no keyboard necessary [»pikeR6_1991a]

Subtopic: exploratory learning is natural up

Quote: systematic instructional design decomposes target skills; but people do not follow the instructions since too busy learning [»carrJM_1990]
Quote: the minimalist approach to instruction reduces obstacles to learner's efforts and exploits their learning strategies [»carrJM_1990]
Quote: computer users spontaneously engage in discovery learning by skipping and skimming; creates a guided exploration manual [»willTR4_1992]
Quote: learners would rather try things out than read explanations [»mackRL7_1983]
Quote: users often fail to read information even though modest amount of text in the expected form [»robeG5_1981]
Quote: systems are tools; except for tutorials, users must direct the system; laissez-faire is inevitable and systems are conceptual mazes [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: Apple Desktop Interface assumes that people are curious, strive for mastery, enjoy communicating, with imagination and artistry [»apple_1987]
Quote: a manual should allow a new user to immediately articulate and pursue his or her own goals
Quote: Adventure is enjoyable because it is an exploratory environment [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: in Adventure, players must actively explore the system [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: learning is faster with active exploration [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: Adventure players control the game -- this increases motivation [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: in Adventure, players don't need to know a strategy or the system [»carrJM11_1982]

Subtopic: obstacles become challenges up

Quote: in exploratory environments, users expect problems and learn quickly [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: in exploratory environments, obstacles become challenges that require action [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: people prefer goal-driven activities with a 50% chance of success [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: a player of Adventure enjoys the same problems that a novice user hates [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: Adventure intervenes when a player appears lost [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: Adventure scores a player on skill and achievement [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: guided exploration manuals stress error recognition (checkpoint) and recovery; so guided exploration learners recognize more errors [»carrJM_1990]

Subtopic: modeless, error safe, reversible systems up

Quote: in Adventure, players can not destroy the game [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: Adventure has no modes, while systems often restrict allowable commands [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: explorable systems have visible states and allowable actions, results are easily interpreted, actions are free and reversible [»normDA_1988]

Subtopic: quick start guide up

Quote: quickly teach Autocode in hours; the standard account defined Autocode on two pages [»campB4_1980]
Quote: a guided exploration card consists of a goal, hints, checkpoints for confirmation, and remedies for errors [»carrJM_1990]
Quote: forced learners to read the introduction by placing it across the envelope's seal [»carrJM_1990]
Quote: explain system usage with a sample walkthrough; allows users to vary the sample to suit their needs [»shneB_1998]
Quote: summary of Ferranti Mark I on a cheat sheet; functions, instruction codes, character codes, input and PERM routine, conventions [»turiA3_1951]
Quote: understand the programmer's manual through the machine itself

Subtopic: user studies up

Quote: compared guided exploration plus explicit procedures with a traditional tutorial; the former did better, faster, and more accurately [»willTR4_1992]
Quote: the minimal manual results could be due to reducing a 180-page manual into a 45-page one; without benefit of guided exploration [»willTR4_1992]
Quote: guided exploration learners where twice as fast as those with a systems-style manual; understood the goals of each activity [»carrJM_1990]

Subtopic: examples up

Quote: write a source program that reproduces itself; the discovery of how to do it is a revelation [»thomK8_1984]
Quote: should teach mathematics by showing the development of proof-generated concepts from naive conjectures; dispels mysticism of mathematics [»lakaI_1976]
Quote: Lakatos used a Socratic dialogue to reconstruct the history that is referenced in the footnotes [»lakaI_1976]

Subtopic: hard-to-learn systems up

Quote: difficult to learn a text editor by oneself, e.g., implausible interpretations; active learners, build on typing model, try to understand [»mackRL7_1983]
Quote: self-instruction materials often cause troubles due to passive learning [»carrJM11_1982]
Quote: many systems make novice users feel incompetent [»carrJM11_1982]

Subtopic: problems with guided exploration up

Quote: guided exploration learning is inefficient, authoritarian, and emphasizes declarative knowledge at the expense of procedural knowledge [»willTR4_1992]
Quote: guided exploration forces a new user to figure out the desired procedures; neither efficient nor humane for users who want finish

Related Topics up

Group: graphical user interface   (24 topics, 512 quotes)
Group: psychology   (9 topics, 307 quotes)
Group: testing and evaluating user interfaces   (9 topics, 262 quotes)

Topic: children vs. adults (33 items)
Topic: direct engagement and theater in a user interface (35 items)
Topic: disorientation in a user interface (13 items)
Topic: ease of learning (38 items)
Topic: education (35 items)
Topic: error safe systems (76 items)
Topic: learning a programming language (15 items)
Topic: minimal language systems (12 items)
Topic: modes in a user interface (40 items)
Topic: novice users and the UserInterface (25 items)
Topic: software documentation (64 items)
Topic: training wheels for the user interface (10 items)
Topic: understanding systems
(48 items)

Updated barberCB 9/04
Copyright © 2002-2008 by C. Bradford Barber. All rights reserved.
Thesa is a trademark of C. Bradford Barber.