Show me. Tell me. Let me Play.


A while back I interviewed for a position with a Knowledge Leadership team at a telecom company. They were looking for someone who could help them to craft an innovative, compelling way to introduce, explain, and support new products.

The initial f2f went well, and – as a follow-up – they asked me to “show an example” of my problem solving + presentational capabilities at our next meeting.

They had already described how they perceived the Goals of the customer process:

  1. Learn

  2. Buy

  3. Get/Setup

  4. Use

  5. Bill/Pay

  6. Get Help

Their list is fairly straightforward, if limited to a narrow product-centric view of engagement.  I had some observations about their breakout (more on that later), but agree with the stages they identified.

So I decided to focus my advocacy/explanation solution to that process.  Here’s what I came up with:

My solution attempts to approach learning & engagement from 3 vectors:

Show ‘n Tell ‘n Explore


Show Me

Show Me is your classic short demonstrative linear ‘guide’ video/slideshow:

  1. It introduces the focus, puts it into context, and identifies a goal.
  2. It describes the situation in the form of a customer-centric story (scenario)
  3. It outlines the task(s) and process  in a ‘step-by-step’ fashion
  4. the [ Play! ] button is always available (It takes you to the exploratory, clickable playpen)

Links to relevant referential & explanatory info (Tell Me) are also available.

Show me is – of course – the easiest and most accessible learning approach.  It’s a presentation.


Tell Me

Tell Me echoes the classic ‘online help’ system:

As noted, it is an environment which lends itself to integration with a proactive chatbot AI interface, as well.

Tell Me is self-directed information seeking.  It’s really closer to ‘search‘ – and has value as such.


Let Me Play

Let me Play emulates the realtime experience of doing it.

In the best of all possible worlds we have seamless integration

Let me Play is interactive exploration.  It is experiential.  It is – of course – ‘the fun one’:


the Map / Guide

I’m rather quite fond of maps.  They provide a comprehensive overview.

Remember the customer’s Learn-Buy-Get-Use-Pay-Help progression?

This map introduces the observation that ‘Learn‘ and ‘Help‘ (which encompass the core customer experience) – are kinda the same thing:  Variations on a theme.

They both provide context.

Learn is the “show me” presentation.  Help is the “tell me” self-directed info-gathering.  The two of them encompass the experiential playpen of Buy-Get-Use-Pay.



We could spend a while exploring techniques – most of which can be described in terms of Visual Metaphor.

User Experience design – understandably – often gets sidetracked by graphical bedazzlement, ornamentation, and special effects.  I love’em, too – but try to maintain primary focus on utility and functionality, as well as theBigPicture.

So I showcased 3 of the attributes which I feel embody the ‘soul’ of this solution:

immersive, seamless integration – the “Minority Report” interface utilizes readily accessible norms for navigating the environment: “swipe-y” gestural metaphors allow you to zoom-in, zoom-out, brush-next, etc.

the map is context – Know where you are, have a sense of scale, see the process; it’s multi-dimensional

iconic shorthand – visual indicators provide consistency in a precise, understandable, easily-actionable format

Here are some additional visual notes which I didn’t include in my 8-slide mini-show.  They illustrate UI and presentational techniques that are (in my mind) implicit to the form.  They are … conventional.  And that’s why they work.


How they work together


Brings it all together … in the context of a customer-centric experience

Show me : View : Linear presentation

Tell me : Question : Interactive ‘Help’ system with explanations

Let me Play : Act : Exploratory playpen


Is there more?

Yes, of course.  But…

There was limited time in which to demonstrate concept & credibility to the interviewers.  I wanted to focus on the core interaction idea underlying  Show/Tell/Play (hopefully without too much distraction).


Was it successful?

Apparently not.  Verizon did not call me back.

Why not?

I can only guess.  Clients who don’t follow up rarely clarify why.

Epilogue:  Hopes & Dilemmas

As “a UX guy” information architect with a documentation & education background, I’ve always been intrigued and obsessed with the challenge of making stuff that is accessible-because-it-is-self-explanatory.  Show/Tell/Play is my attempt at a fully-featured solution.

The notion of a highly/seamlessly-integrated application which is profoundly self-aware has always appealed to me.

Unless we assume that our software solutions supplant our own agency, then …

The challenge of any software entity is its success in emulating a human who we like.  And who likes us back.

Some automated solutions lend themselves to the convenience of the Easy button.  “Don’t make me think” is a seductive con.  It works only in an environment of Trust … or Gullibility.

Most of the stuff we deal with now is complex beyond our understanding. And the current environment is one of growing distrust.  There’s a larger ethical theme here worth discussing, but that’s another rant…

I learned long ago (as a Documentation Manager) that “Nobody ever reads the documentation.”  At least, not voluntarily.  Our first motivation upon opening the box is “I wanna play.”  Especially if the shiny object is attractive and appears to be –  dare I say – “user friendly”.  That’s understandable.  It’s also a little sad.  But very human.

So I dream of The Helpful World in which the Internet of Things is interested in gifting me with knowledge & ‘showing me how’.  It’s an environment which values my success – and invests in it.

In The Helpful World I move seamlessly from learning and asking to acting. And back again.  “Easy” isn’t just a button.


© The Communication Studio LLC