When differentiating between the needs of beginners and experts, it is useful to discuss command vectors and working sets. A working set is a “subset of commands and features” that a perpetual intermediate would memorize (Cooper et al., 2007, p. 552). Command vectors “are distinct techniques” through which users “issue instructions to the program” (2007, p. 551). Some examples are drop-down menus, toolbar controls, and pop-up menus. Good programs provide “multiple command vectors” where functions can be performed by going to any number of command vectors depending on the user’s ability (2007, p. 551). Immediate vectors allow for instant function while pedagogic vectors provide intermediate steps.

A pedagogic vector is filled with world information, and is known as a world vector. Keyboard shortcuts, on the other hand, are head vectors. Head vectors are used by intermediates and experts while world vectors are required by beginners and by more advanced users that access rarely used functions. A memorization vector is the path from a world vector to a head vector. An example of a memorization vector is the listing of shortcuts on the traditional text menu.

Two types of customization that help users are personalization and configuration. Personalization involves decorating objects while configuration involves “moving, adding or deleting” objects (2007, p. 556). Personalization is described as idiosyncratically modal, i.e. half of computer users like to use it. Therefore, designers must provide for both idioms: personalization and no-personalization. Additionally, designers should provide a gallery of templates for users to select and use so users do not feel overwhelmed with the process.

Localization and globalization plays a role in immediate and pedagogic vectors. Because immediate vectors can be used across cultures, they are fall within globalization. However, pedagogic vectors can involve text which falls within localization. Pedagogic vectors must change for different parts of the world.

The final teaching point from this chapter was the idea of the help menu. The help menu should not be for beginners. Rather, it should be “focused on people who are already successfully using the product, but who want to expand their horizons: the perpetual intermediates” (2007, p. 561).

This chapter’s teaching points suggest that whenever comparing beginners and experts in computer systems, researchers should analyze their use of command vectors and working sets. Experts will have a much bigger working set and use head vectors while beginners will rely on a few functions in their working set and will use a pedagogic vector. I plan on using these findings to construct a psychometric measure for describing beginners and experts that could be used as moderator variables in future studies.

Cooper, A., Reimann, R., & Cronin, D. (2007). About face 3: The essentials of interaction design. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Publishing, Inc.

Distinguishing between Beginners & Experts

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