Why Do People Say, “It’s a Training Issue?”
One oft-cited benefit of usability is that it decreases or eliminates the need for training. So it’s very odd to hear people take the opposite viewpoint, claiming that training eliminates the need for usability. Why do we hear people make this excuse so often?
A Blame-the-User Attitude
The belief that it’s okay to ask users to change their behavior comes from an attitude that blames users for the problems they have using software. “The people on the team who designed and developed the application know how to use it, so why can’t users figure it out?” “All complex applications take some time to learn, don’t they? Once we show people the correct way to do things, that will solve all their problems, right?”
According to this attitude, software just is what it is, and people have to adapt to it. This point of view supposes that, once training shows users the right way to perform tasks using an application’s user interface and the users practice those steps, eventually, they’ll get used to working in the way the application requires them to do things.
This is an easy position for stakeholders to take regarding enterprise applications. A company’s employees have little choice about using these applications, so it’s easy for IT to tell them to “suck it up” or “tough it out.” Sadly, some employees internalize this viewpoint and blame themselves for the problems they have using these applications.
A Vested Interest in Training
“It’s a training issue” is usually just an excuse stakeholders make to avoid fixing an application’s usability problems. Many usability problems are difficult to fix, so require a lot of usability testing, redesign, and development. Thus, each usability problem stakeholders can successfully characterize as a training issue lightens the load of the development team. Plus, increasing the need for training adds to the importance and value of the training team. So both teams seemingly benefit.
Why Isn’t It a Training Issue?
It’s frustrating when someone says, “it’s a training issue,” but it’s not always easy to immediately fire back with a convincing argument to the contrary. The arguments I’ll cover next are some of the best ways of convincing stakeholders that training is not the best solution to usability problems. Of course, many of these arguments will sound extremely obvious to UX professionals, but if they were obvious to everyone, we would’t have this problem.
If You Fix the Usability Problems, You Won’t Need Training
Usable applications are easier to learn and require little or no training. Yes, most complex applications do require some training, but when applications are usable, training is easier, quicker, and more effective, and users retain what they learn better. It’s best to make a user interface as intuitive and easy to learn as possible, minimizing the need for training. Then, any training that is necessary can focus on the more demanding aspects of an application’s use, reducing the burden of what your training must help users to learn and retain.
Training Doesn’t Solve Inefficiencies of Use
While training can help people remember the steps in a task, it can’t surmount problems of a poorly designed user interface that force users to perform their tasks inefficiently and perhaps even require entire steps that shouldn’t be necessary. People can learn how to use an inefficient application through training and practice, but no matter how well they learn how to cope with its inefficiencies, they will still have to go through inefficient steps every time they perform their tasks. Imagine how much better it would be to have a well-designed application that instead helps people perform their tasks efficiently.