New design models for providing end user Help

Ray Gallon has recently completed a series of webinars looking at new models for providing end user Help (A Cognitive Design for User Assistance).

In the third webinar, Ray looked at how people learn today and he suggested a new approach for the future. He used The Common European Framework of Reference for Language‘s description of people’s levels of competences to outline the different ways organisations help people to learn.

His slide describing the current model looked like this:

Learning levels

Here is our equivalent model:

Learning levels

Although our model is based on a different framework (Bloom’s taxonomy of learning and Kirkpatrick’s learning evaluation model), they are very similar, if not the same.

Today, this leads to a model for supporting users that looks roughly like this:

Traditional model for assisting users

When users want to do more than just apply what they know (i.e. when they want to master a subject), they tend to use the Internet – places such as YouTube and user forums – to learn, debate and make suggestions.

What both Ray and ourselves propose is that organisations should develop an integrated model. Instead of the three “islands” (of the discussion forum, a body of knowledge and training) there should be integration between them.

The new model for supporting users would look roughly like this:

Cognitive design model for assisting users

It’s all very well Ray and ourselves coming to the same conclusion, but do others? Do you agree with this model, or do you believe there should be a different solution?

Share your thoughts using the comment box below.

Note: Our model is covered in more depth on our Trends in Technical Communication Workshop – Advanced Technical Writing Techniques course.



Interesting concept, Ellis, thanks for this post!

I’m stumbling over the “unconscious” label. I wonder whether the comparison between learning a language or a motor skill and UA holds. I understand the idea of unconscious mastery; I think that’s what can induce “flow” in a martial art or in music. But I would claim that any kind of producing or consuming UA is always conscious. If its use is unconscious, it’s at best user experience design. This doesn’t take away from the general idea that there is a hierarchy of separate islands which would benefit from being more integrated.

On a minor point, I find the T shape of the Bloom/Kirkpatrick model a bit odd. I like the funnel shape better, because I don’t think that mastery comes with a sudden sense of breadth. Instead, I think one goes back and forth between conscious and unconscious competence a lot.


Thanks Kai.

We made it T shaped, because the mastery level in Blooms taxonomy includes three aspects: Analyse, Evaluate and Create. We simplified that to “mastery” but gave it a wider block to indicate it’s actually more than one thing.

As for the unconscious competency, you are right to question that, and it may be rare when people are doing things truly unconsciously. I doubt many of us think about how we move the mouse, or even type on a keyboard – we do those tasks unconsciously.

Ray Gallon

Ellis, very interesting. Bloom’s taxonomy is also behind what I presented in my second webinar, so I’m right with you. On one level, I like your simplified diagram, though I agree with Kai that it’s a bit hierarchical in its appearance, which the funnel avoids.

I think rather than “unconscious,” we’re talking about “automatic” or semi-automatic responses. And the mastery involved is not mastery of the UA, but of the product. The UA contributes to acquiring that mastery.

If the UA is embedded, and done well, the user might not even be aware that s/he is interacting with UA. It’s just part of the product.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.