If your software products are like most others, they are complex, data intensive, and functionality dense. At the same time, real people use those software products for critical day-to-day work.

Creating complex software is difficult. Balancing that kind of complexity with excellent user experience? Even more so. Throw in aggressive timelines and strained budgets, and the problem multiplies.

In light of this, it’s tempting to take shortcuts—to skimp on usability planning, to implement functionality out of the box with little to no UX consideration, to push forward to meet a development deadline without user experience input. When you’re in the middle of other problems, it’s easy to decide that difficult-to-use interactions will be fixed by training people how to use the product correctly.

Easy Doesn’t Do It

That’s just it—it’s too easy. It’s easy to claim that usability problems will be fixed with training and move on. The problem is, that’s only the easier solution in the moment. It’s less work for your team in the short-term. For your users (and your training team), it’s bound to cause worlds of difficulty and frustration down the line.

User experience doesn’t magically get better after a difficult digital product has been properly explained to users. Unusable functionality is still unusable even if you’ve shown someone how it’s supposed to work. Training isn’t a solution to poor UX.

Why You Can’t Rely on Training

Certainly, training has its place. It’s a normal part of onboarding new users. But we’ve grown to be reflexively dependent on it. No matter what, you cannot rely on training to right your UX wrongs. Because it won’t, for all of the following reasons.

People forget their training.

Your users will never remember all the things they need to remember to use your product successfully. Ever. Our human brains just don’t work that way.

People will not refer back to training materials.

The chances of users looking at training videos or guides when they’re in the middle of trying to complete a task? Slim to none. Most will guess and risk getting it wrong, create a workaround outside of the product to get that part of their task done, or ask someone else for help. Many will never even remember that they have access to training materials that could answer their questions.

People learn as much as the person before them knew, if that.

Many users will never go through a formal training from your organization’s training team, despite your best intentions and efforts. Instead, they will learn on the job from the person who did the work before them. That person will often be unable to provide good training for a multitude of reasons, including:

  • They never received formal training either
  • They aren’t experienced at teaching others how to use technology
  • They’ve used the product so long, it’s difficult to remember everything they’ve learned about navigating tricky or non-intuitive tasks
  • They’ve created their own workarounds outside of the product that they pass down to the next person as the way the job is done
  • They never learned everything the product can do, leaving important gaps in the next person’s knowledge of the product’s functionality
  • They learned from the person before them, too, resulting in a dicey game of informal product training telephone

Bad UX is bad for training staff, too.

You put your training team in a tough spot when you ask trainers to make up for your inattention to user experience. They must explain the same bad interactions over and over, knowing that they are difficult and frustrating for users. These explanations not only crush morale, they require extra time from trainers that could be better spent elsewhere if the product was intuitive and user-friendly.

Easy Now, Trouble Later

When you foist the UX problem off on training, it results in long-term trouble for everyone. Your team forfeits potential wins in sales, engagement, user acceptance, brand loyalty, and efficiency, just to name a few. The training team has to spend more time explaining the product to users, both at initial onboarding and over time.

Eventually, your team may be asked to fix UX problems if user pitfalls get to be too much. This is work that could have been avoided if user needs had been better considered from the outset.

You must take the extra care to consider user experience in every step of planning and building your product. Consider how real people will engage with every interaction, every piece of functionality, every data table. It takes more time up front, but it will drastically increase your success in the end.

About truematter

Our team has been doing the real work of user experience since the earliest days of the commercial web. We’re out to make your digital products a whole lot better.

We’re not hatin’ on training. But we do hate bad UX.

Author: @baileysendsword 
Graphic: @djosephmachado