With a wide potential audience range, we have to account for everybody
The problem of welcoming new users to Clinical Encounters, while also pandering to experienced users, is a problem that many different applications, software, and games have to solve. On one hand, a guided or informative experience can be great for new users but would quickly become tiring or annoying for returning users. On the other, offering little help and expecting users to know most everything is not a good strategy to gain new customers. So, a balance has to be set.
Part of how we began to tackle the issue was to try making the program as intuitive as possible. This way, no explanation would be needed for everything to be understood. While we’ve certainly cleaned up some features and have made others easier to follow, it still wouldn’t be enough for our purposes. With a wide potential audience range, including both proficient and non-proficient computer users, we have to account for everybody. It’s important to offer help wherever it may be needed, but first impressions are arguably more important than that alone. So, with this in mind, we began work on setting up a tutorial and help system.
Different Forms of Help
There were several forms of approach we took when it came to providing assistance. For starters, we wanted everything to be self-explainable. A few things come into play here: upholding existing conventions found in other software, consistency throughout our project, and guiding users’ attention. Make sure to check out the next Clinical Encounters development blog to learn a bit more about how these come into play through the UI. See some examples of the help we’ve provided below:
We have also implemented two overlay features which act to guide and explain different features of Clinical Encounters. The first overlay appears on the main menu, explaining some of the common buttons and how to manage the menu system. The second one is found while viewing cases, highlighting buttons on the screen and offering tooltip help on hover.
There are also tooltips on many items throughout Clinical Encounters which will show by hovering the mouse over them at any time. While the most important features are highlighted by the overlay mentioned previously, we don’t ignore everything that couldn’t make it into this overlay.
The New User Experience
Since the first moments of using a new software are important, we wanted to make sure we offered the help that any new user might need. Providing a guest account for quick and easy login and greeting both guests and newly-registered accounts with the help overlay is our way of doing this.
We introduced the guest account as a way for users to interact with the software with virtually no commitment. Yet, since it is a guest account, it has limited functionality; it cannot save cases, so the focus of the guest account is more for experimentation or showcasing. We show the main menu’s help overlay every time a guest logs in, which can have multiple benefits. First off, it ensures that anybody new will be ensured to get the overlay if they choose to be a guest. Secondly, it will encourage returning users to create an account and not be bothered by the pop-up. If a user prefers the guest account, then it can act as a refresher if they don’t use the software often.
Since guest accounts can’t save any created cases, we also offer convenient methods to register once logged in as a guest, in case a user ever changes their mind. This makes it easy for anybody to create their own account whenever they decide they want one (especially if they decide this after inputting a case).
By this point, we hope that users feel more comfortable with the systems in place and can navigate around with ease.
While we try to offer different ways of helping around every corner, we never want to trap the user or overload them with help. For this, we do several things:
- There is a way to cancel any help overlay at any time
- We only forcibly show the menu overlay for new users or guests, not registered users
- We provide help buttons so that the help is there if it’s ever needed, but they aren’t necessary or in the user’s face
- We want things to be intuitive anyway, which lets independent individuals figure things out for themselves
We want to offer tools and options for cases that are easy to use for beginners, but let experienced users customize it to their liking. An example of this is the choice option for dialogues. By no means must users add a dialogue choice to their dialogues to make them great, but it lets our veterans create more engaging and interactive cases for their viewers.
All in all, we invite people of all experience levels to try Clinical Encounters and we hope that it’s an enjoyable experience at all steps through the process.