Teaching people how to use new tools on the internet is hard. Learning through experience is the most effective method, but it's slow. More and more of us are finding ourselves teaching other people how to use new web apps and services - sometimes professionally.
Though you, elite readers, might consider getting excited about apps that are a year or two old to be painfully behind the times, the fact is that there is huge demand for training in use and application of web apps old and new.
Below we offer our list of some of the best apps you can use in this kind of training activity and generally as a consultant or trainer. These are very "training" oriented applications, we'd also love to hear about your favorite applications for other purposes if you're a web consultant.
You can show people how to go through multi-step processes by sharing your desktop in a tab of their browser with Yuuguu. It's free, no downloads required, get sharing in seconds. Old versions of the software can be a bit buggy but the newest version has worked great for me.
There's absolutely nothing like getting to watch someone else work on their own desktop - it's a magical learning experience for people. I use it while talking to people on the phone, after IMing them the login and PIN to see my screen. I haven't tried recording the sessions yet, but that could be really useful too.
ViewMyPC will release a version of its screensharing app that lets viewers watch from inside their browsers as well, later this month.
Multi-platform IM Client
Multi-platform IM services let you IM with anyone almost anywhere, without worrying what IM network they are on. Just sign up for an account on AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk, give your client the login info for each account and you'll be set for good. Mac users can check out Adium (pictured, but souped up), Windows users can try out Trillian or Digsby and anyone can use Meebo on the web.
If you're going to work with a wide variety of people online, you should be able to easily IM with them no matter what service they use.
IM during phone calls or even in person is the fastest way to share URLs, it's a great way to take shared notes and, as consultant to international Communities of Practice consultant John Smith says, it's a great way to clarify communication between people who don't speak the same languages natively.
Jing is the fastest, easiest way to record a short screencast demonstrating how to do something online. It's not particularly robust but for a quick tutorial to send to a client, you'll probably like it a lot.
The ability to watch again and again makes screencasting a particularly useful tool for consultants to offer their clients. If you're teaching any tangible skills, as opposed to just marketing fluff (or even genuinely useful marketing strategy!) then making screencasts all day long could prove very useful.
Annotated Screenshots with Screensteps or Skitch
ScreenSteps was the app we used to make this post in a jiffy, Skitch is another app we're totally in love with. Both are for Mac only - can anyone recommend a good PC equivalent? Update - we were wrong ScreenSteps has a Windows version after all!
The idea is that both make it really easy to grab screenshots, annotate them and then upload them to the web. For many clients, a screenshare or a screencast will still move too fast and it's really nice to be able to read text explaining how to do things at any time.
AideRSS: Filter RSS Feeds for Popularity
We write about AideRSS here all the time. Consulting clients love it, though. Tell them you can give them a feed, or run a feed through email for them, that delivers just the most popular items from any news source and they will adore you. Plug in any feed and it will score items by number of comments, inbound links, saves in delicious.com etc.
You can do this with almost anything. In the above screenshot, we've performed a Google Blogsearch for posts that link to a company's website, then changed the RSS URL to output 50 items instead of 10 (the default in the URL), then run that feed through AideRSS and grabbed the "best" feed. The goal here was to identify bloggers who had written about the company and gotten a big reaction from their readers. This is a good way to try and find a blogger for a company to hire if it's looking for one, among other things.
Those Are Our Favorites, What Are Yours?
Everyone's probably got a different list of "must-haves" but apps vary in terms of performance and functionality. If we're missing anything here, please let us know. What's more fun than learning about new ways to most effectively teach other people about all the exciting things going online these days?
Photo: Little Birdies, by Flickr user IanMatthewSoper