The problem with software, especially really deep, rich software products, is that users want to start using them right out of the box. So maybe the problem is with users.

That's a joke.

We tech writers sadly admit (to ourselves) that if a user is struggling to use our product, it's not the user's fault...it's ours. Ok, it's not just our fault. Usability also involves user interface design, even more so than documentation.

This is a bigger challenge to solve than the average user realizes. But users don't care that it's a challenge for us. They just want the software to work and to be able to use it right out of the box without any hassle. They're absolutely right to feel that way. We know that. We're users too.

With Flight Simulator, the challenge is multi-layered. There is the challenge to help new users to get flying quickly in a way that ensures they have a fun initial experience. And there's the challenge of exposing the incredible depth of features that FS has accumulated over more than 20 years of existence.

In addition, we find that some users, even brand-new users, actually enjoy reading through the Learning Center articles or taking Rod Machado's lessons. They'll spend hours learning how to properly employ the autopilot in the 737 or learning VOR navigation. But most users just want to jump in and start enjoying.

We cringe when we go to airshows or conferences and some of our most loyal, passionate users stare with amazement at some feature that has been in the product for years that they didn't know about. It's not their fault that they didn't know it was there.

All of this is just to say that we care about this stuff. It keeps us awake at night. And when we don't get it right, we weep silently into our pillows. But it's also part of what makes this kind of work fun. My degree is in psychology and most of our User Research people are social psychologists. The problem of understanding how people use software or computers is interesting to us. And we do really care about making it better.

The tech writers on the Flight Simulator team fall into a group called User Experience. We are charged with thinking beyond the documentation because, let's face it, the documentation is the last place most people want to go to find information about the product. So we think a lot about not only the docs but the user interface and even down to details like the labels for the controls in the UI. All of that has an impact on how easy...or not...the software is to use.

It's even more fun because not only is Flight Simulator a technically challenging piece of software, flight is a technically challenging activity. But, as my pal, Singer, likes to point out ad nauseum, "A well-done simulation of a compelling real-world activity is game-like by it's very nature." It's true. It would be interesting to see if it tweaks the same neurons.

Anyway, keep exploring Flight Sim and we'll keep trying to make it a richer, a deeper, and an easier to discover experience.