Interaction Design for Instruction

15 Feb 2009 - 6:48pm
7 years ago
1 reply
746 reads

Watching my 4 year old laugh and learn while playing games on

I came up with a question.

But first, a little background: If you haven't seen, please
check it out. It's a large collection of interactive learning games for
young minds to enjoy; lots of interactive puzzles, classic jigsaw
puzzles, music makers, etc... including a puzzle involving the physics
of getting a ball (meatball) to fall from a platform and be guided (by
you) to a landing pad (bowl of spaghetti). The game simulates gravity
and inertia, trajectories, etc... and teaches, very directly, cause and

As my 4 year old son played the game, he was also learning the
intricacies of interacting with the interface. In order to move and
tilt the platforms which guide the meatball, he would click them one or
more times, with each click incrementing or resetting the angle of the

At one point, I noticed he experimented with the interface a bit,
checking to see whether the side of the platform clicked made a
difference as to which direction the platform would tilt. He quickly
discovered that this made no difference, and went back to clicking
several times to get the desired platform angle.

I'm surprised this didn't grab my attention before.

I noticed that these games aren't just teaching the readily apparent
intent of cause and effect, matching, sequencing, letters, language,
math, etc... but also how to learn new interfaces.

I wonder if the team creating this game would have found it a valuable
investment to build-in dual click targets for each platform, for those
kids who wanted a bit more flexibility (slide further to the right on
the "usability/flexibility scale"), as their skill-sets grew. If my
mini usability research session were on the payroll as it were, would
this be seen as a valuable investment? What would you tend to decide?
Is the multi-click interaction plenty to get the job done without too
much frustration? Would multi-target patterns just cause more
frustration in the earlier stages of play?

Also, is it silly to imagine the lessons that might be provided by
allowing an instructional design, for early learners, to be less than
perfect, as a way to say "for the time-being, you probably will run into
interface inconsistencies and unexpected things", and allow for that in
your designs? Is this potentially one of the good side-effects to
less-than-optimal design, often resulting from limiting schedules and

Also, what is your opinion on the usability/flexibility "trade-off"? Is
it necessarily a trade-off? What tricks have you learned in this area?
Can the remote control give the advanced user as much flexibility as
they want, while avoiding confusion for the newbie?




16 Feb 2009 - 8:56am

"Also, what is your opinion on the usability/flexibility "trade-off"?"

Huge question. If we deliberately make something more complex we must ensure that the complexity is worth it to the user. Measuring "worth" is a purely situation dependent task.

Your post puts me in mind of a usability study where productA was stripped to the bones and productB was loaded with a huge range of options. productA was considered *as powerful* as productB because it did the core set of tasks simply and efficiently.

For me, most users tend to embrace the concept of the permanent-novice rather than turn away from it. Keep it simple. Make it work. If you must provide flexibility then keep it out of the way.

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