I admit it: I’m a long time Sims fan. For those who don’t know, The Sims is a life simulation video game series, developed by EA Maxis and published by Electronic Arts. I recently started playing the latest Sims 4. It has been years since I last played and, of course, the latest version is different from previous ones. I often find myself with questions: How do I rotate objects in the room? How do I go to work? Is there some place I can eat while on a date?
I have been playing computer or video games since…well, since King’s Quest in 1984. (My goodness, that’s 30 years!) Back then games came with little booklets that explained how to play the game. Now that games have become so much more complicated, they don’t include much, if any, printed written information. If you want to know how to do something, you can’t just pick up some documentation, flip through it, and find answers. (The Sims 4 help option takes you to a website that I found less than helpful.) I often ask my questions in Google and hope that others have asked and answered that same question. There are forums full of people asking “how do I…?”
This trend in providing less help to users can also be seen in other types of software. Reference manuals and user guides used to be standard and expected. Then came on-line help, which seemed to be better because you could get right to the topic/issue/question you wanted. Except (as I discovered many times) you needed to know exactly how to ask your question or what keywords to use. Using the wrong vocabulary would often lead to frustration.
And now the trend is to let users discover things on their own. Sure, as I play my game, little pop-up windows appear with “tips”. However, those tips usually have nothing to do with what I want to do right at the moment. I can only hope I’ll remember the information when I want to do those other things.
I am, therefore, very pleased that here at Spitfire Management we provide all sorts of information to our users. First-time users do get pop-up “cards” that explain the dashboards, and we do provide keyword-sensitive knowledge-base articles. We even offer many training videos for those who like to watch and learn as well as “Foundation Classes” for new users. But along with all that, we offer 36 topical end-user PDFs right from our Help menu. These “focus guides” and more technical guides provide chapters full of step-by-step instructions, definitions of what’s what, explanations and sometimes even examples. They can be read on-line or printed out. We know that at least some of our clients have read a guide or two cover to cover.
We believe in helping our clients learn how to use our Spitfire Project Management System. We also know that learning a new system is done over time, and that it is beneficial to be able to find answers to questions as they come up and also to stumble on answers to questions before they come up.
That is why we do, and will continue to, provide coherent guides in order to help our users find the answers they seek about our system, whether they have a specific question or just want to learn about the software in a more exploratory way.