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Learning Curve vs. Complexity

David Lang has an interesting piece where he tries to draw a clear distinction between what some people term "a steep learning curve" and the fact that specialized Bible programs require quite a bit of learning if one wants to make the most out of them. He suggests that the "steep learning curve" should be applied only when performing even the most basic features of a program becomes hard, while the obvious complexity involved in becoming a power user is just an indication that there is still a lot to be learned, but should not be taken, in and by itself, as a disadvantage or an insurmountable difficulty.

Reading his post I was reminded of my own experience with what I sometimes call "the triple crown" (Accordance, BibleWorks and Logos). I have been a user of these three excellent programs for quite a while. I've seen them grow and become standards in different areas, but the one thing they all share in common is that they have become very complex packages. Any given user who is familiar with one of these will most likely think that the other two have a "steep learning curve" if/when they are exposed to them. As a matter of fact, they do things differently, and we may think one is more intuitive than the others. True. However, the problem seems to be, to a very large degree, that these are very complex programs, with hundreds of different features, options and set ups. No wonder there will be some sort of learning curve to face at the beginning. This is inevitable. What really matters, as David rightly points out, is that simple, basic things should be easy to figure out.

This year has seen the release of BibleWorks 7, while Accordance 7 and Libronix Digital Library System 3.0 will also hit the streets in the coming months. You will find full reviews here at Bible Software Review in due course, but I can assure you that these programs have grown to be so large, that a single review cannot do justice to the tremendous amount of features found in each one of them. I'll probably try to write a series covering different aspects/areas/uses, so that you can begin to appreciate how powerful and complex these packages really are. So we'll have to revisit the whole issue of "learning curves," but the fact remains that the balance between complexity and power on the one hand, and ease of use and intuitiveness on the other, is very very hard to achieve. We can (and should!) expect fairly common and simple tasks to be easily done, but be ready to read some manuals or watch some video tutorials if you really want to master these "beasts." There are no shortcuts to becoming an expert user. It'll take some time and effort. That's for sure.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 6, 2006 8:42 PM.

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