The Interactive Dashboard Blues: getting users to play

Kathy Sierra, Creating Passionate Users
I'm a big believer that work should be play.  I love what I do, I even do it as a hobby.  So when I present a dashboard to someone and see that look of Office-Disguised-Horror (it looks unimpressed - arms crossed, leaned back, prove it to me, body language ), I'm saddened.  To me, it suggests an experience or environment where not knowing something might be punished.

I find that interactive dashboards are more likely to induce this reaction.  Many people will just stare, not touch.

I hate to say it, but it may be a generational thing.  I watch my 70 year old father on the computer and he does pretty well for someone who was first introduced to a keyboard at age 60.  But he is afraid to push buttons and often gets lost on the web.

Then there's my 2 year old grandson who zooms around on an iPad so fast I can't figure out what he's doing.  He is absolutely fearless and doesn't care if he breaks it.  And yet, he hasn't.  He always manages to 'find his way back'.

I'm somewhere in the middle of these two.  The internet came into being when I was in my 30's while in university. I viewed it as one big library.  For me, the computer became a treasure hunt.  I broke a lot of things and learned how to fix them.  So I am not afraid to touch and play.

Unfortunately, our dashboard users have a myriad of experience, so we can't possibly know how to help everyone.  Documentation is important of course, as is building a smart dashboard, but that isn't always enough.
But helping a user be afraid and do it anyway is a powerful force. We shouldn't be too quick to over-simplify a product or experience. Of course, it's up to us to get our users through the big, challenging, thing--there's a big responsibility for stellar documentation and support. And we're talking moral support, not just tech support, so building a user community is even more important with something really, really, scary.

Here's my suggestion for how to get those Caught-in-Headlights users over their fear and get them to engage with a dashboard.