Build, Train and Listen

This afternoon I conducted a training for a number of teachers that will be using my new website CMS to perform website updates.I know alot of developers groan at the thought of talking to the users of their software. People truly are stupid in numbers. Even I don’t like it all that much. That being said, I still force myself to do these trainings from time to time.

Normally we have three other people that actually perform the trainings, but when a number of new features come out for the first time, or we are trying something new I setup a new presentation and talk before all the people. You would be suprised how beneficial this can really be to the health of the project. Now, there is definately alot of extra chatter going on in the form of complaining, or a user that can’t figure out whether to right click or left click, but as a whole you can instantly see trends arise in what people are trying to do that they can’t do.

Amazingly, the more of these I go to you consistently see the average person do the same set of things to the software. This helps so much in jotting down notes on how to make this easier or make that easier. I can get quality feedback in 90 minutes that would take me much longer to retrieve from Reviewers. Unfortunately you do have to filter out a lot of extra suggestions that is irrelevant, like the one user that wants it to everything for them just outside the realm of reality.

Being in a school district and making software for internal use only definately has it’s benefits so this probably doesn’t apply to all situations but it should still be considered. Maybe along the lines of telling a user of the system to user a piece of software like normal and you watch them go about their normal work. The desire here, at least for me is to eliminate the pain they have to deal with when I am not present. My aim is to make it as easy as possible for that user to utilize my software so that they will recommend to management that we should continue working because of this or that, or they should renew my contract etc…

Throughout the whole month of September I will be doing at least one training a week if not twice at two school per week. By the end of the month we should have the majority of the schools out of the way. Hopefully then the teachers will stop pestering me =)

It is quite a task to attempt to bring about 1500 teachers up to speed with a new piece of software in a little over 2 months and also continue on with my normal duties. I think in the end the trainees will also train the trainer. Both parties are receiving. Cheers!

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