This week, I am being trained on an application which I am to build the next version of. Initially, I thought it would be a bit of a waste of time. I’ll be writing the all new singing and dancing version on a completely different platform, so who cares about being trained in the old one?
Well, it turns out I should. Being in a training room with other people who are also learning it is providing me with invaluable information. So what if I know how the app is working under the hood after reading the code base for the last couple of weeks? I have pages of notes on things that need to change that may have made it into the next version without this kind of feedback. I am watching how users – new and old – are using the application in its current form. I’m experiencing some of the strange niggles first hand.
This post isn’t to down talk the application as it exists now – like anything these days, it has its great points to. What this is about is being aware that just watching your end users – be they trainers or newbies – use your application is like a gold mine of information on what could be better, what actually works, what they want to see more of, and what they want to see less of. They don’t care about what’s under the hood. They just want to make their working day more efficient.
Although it’s bound to be time consuming, I can’t help but think that having user groups together to play with an app well before release in an observable environment will do that app more good than any number of revisions to a product specification. I’m not talking beta testing here, as what I’m experiencing now is active feedback on an application where the new ideas are still being collated. It’s something I’m going to be trying to push for going forwards in my own processes. It’s not a new idea. I’ve just never thought of applying the idea to a training scenario before. An established application in a training environment is certainly a great candidate for this treatment.
Going by the information that I have noted down after just two days, observing a hands on training session group is providing more value to me as a software and UI developer than any mass emailed questionnaire ever could.