I think the computer applications that do the best job of training users on the fly are video games. I can't imagine that anyone reads the manuals that come with the games. But here's an article on using video games to train employees:
FIRST-PERSON SCOOPER GAMES
Organizations employing the Sesame Street Generation and beyond have begun to use video games to train employees on key, but perhaps not top-of-mind, profitability issues. The ice cream company Cold Stone Creamery uses a simulation video environment to help new employees learn and understand the cost of seemingly minor inaccuracies in portion size. OK, maybe this isn't as fun as some games, but it's not Mervis Beacon Teaches Typing, either.
Persuasive interactives are not only for GenY... who hasn't been slowed down by one of those roadside radar displays?
And the interactives don't need to be full fledged games, they just need to be persuasive by offering the user:
- the situation
- capture of the current decision
- a path to vary "behavior" or "decisions" so that various options can be explored
- interpretable feedback on the impact of their decision
For instance, Fogg (2003) outlines examples in which photocopiers influence behavior by alerting users how much paper they could save with 2-sided printing. (Have you seen those tree-shaped icons?)
If virtual simulation influences social decision-making, driving, ice cream scooping, and photo-copying, it should also work for financial planning, consumer goods product selection, health risk evaluation, career planning, and other serious topics? Why not?
Consider these questions as you start creating "serious games" for your reality.
- What decisions or actions does your site or application try to help people execute?
- Can/do you use or embed interactive, self-directed feedback to help users understand the impact of making various decisions?
- Are the interactive task flows appropriate, available, and obvious at key decision points?
- Are they "walk-up easy" to interact with and use?
- Do the interactives invite you to fiddle with them? Or are they just scary?
- Can users explore alternate strategies effectively?
- Can users translate the feedback to "what-next" action?
- Are the interactives engaging and persuasive... from the customer's perspective?
Something to think about on the beach...