When terminology attacks: What we mean

"It says to flip the red switch, then push one of the giant yellow buttons. Did you try that?"  (source)

"It says to flip the red switch, then push one of the giant yellow buttons. Did you try that?"

One thing about the internet is you can find ten definitions for the same word. Add in technical jargon and marketing terms and you’d be hard-pressed to find even one matching explanation. But since we’re using some of these words ourselves, we thought that it’s only fair to spell out what these terms mean here at HI.

e-Learning is a very broad term. The basic accepted definitions explain it as an umbrella category that covers a huge variety of electronic-based educational platforms, applications, processes, and deliveries. So basically, anything that isn’t in a print book.

Here at HI, we provide instructional screencasts as a primary e-Learning tool. They’re hugely popular, and it’s easy to see why … the interface looks like yours and you can follow right along. We use them for task-based instruction, and quickly teach a user how to complete a task. We also use workflow animations that guide a user through the bigger steps of a project without diving into how to do the actual steps. Instructional videos are a hybrid of these approaches, explaining a workflow or situation, and guiding the user through it without digging too deeply into the actual pointing and clicking.

When we talk about traditional training, we mean the stuff that you’re used to getting when you are first introduced to a software product: a guide, maybe some documentation, a quick-start brochure. User guides are the print equivalent of the workflow animations mentioned previously—they give an overview of some of the primary uses of a software and the steps to get things done, but not too detailed in terms of performing that function step-by-step. Documentation is where you get into what tools do what, how, and when to use them. This is a serious undertaking, but most companies already have a form of documentation, even an informal one. The good news is once it’s created, it’s easy to update and stay current. We also recommend training plans for different user groups— beginner, advanced, and administrative groups. These outline the skills and workflows that are useful for performing specific and common tasks, and help the users to be successful right away.

Sales support is a specific kind of marketing and can be created to compliment the marketing you’re already doing. We like to create support materials that really show what the software can do. A very popular way of doing this is through a product demonstration video—a couple of minutes showing your software in action. Video is the fastest growing segment of the internet, and the best way to grab a potential customer’s attention. Branded, custom slide presentations that reflect your training helps to give you the cohesive look that oozes professionalism to clients and customers.

Many businesses don’t have a dedicated marketing team or agency, and create their plans and materials themselves. If you’re in this boat, no worries—we can help with that too, creating the basic brochures and ads that every business uses at some point. One of the most effective ways to get the word out about your business is to submit an article to an industry publication. We call these advertorials.

Perhaps the most overused term on this page is usability. Part science, part psychology, part art, usability is something everybody knows something about, because we’re all consumers of technology in some way. That said, sometimes you can be too close to your product and it can be really helpful to have an impartial party click through and give you feedback. To that end, we offer what we call interface evaluations, where we use your product from standpoint of a new user and see if the interface is intuitive and easy to figure out. We also do usability testing where we make the software perform critical tasks and report on the quality of the interaction. And because your website is often the first thing people see about you, we do website evaluations as well, to make sure you’re appealing to your target customer and putting forth a professional, quality web experience.

Hopefully that clears up some of these vague terms and gets you thinking about the way you appear to your audience. As always, we’re happy to talk about it!