RE: Encouraging users to read online help

Subject: RE: Encouraging users to read online help
From: SIANNON -at- VISUS -dot- JNJ -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2001 8:28:57

I originally sent the post appended below straight to Michelle, but seeing
the number of "the help must be bad if the users won't use it" arguments
submitted, I felt I should pass on some of the reasons I have found
_upon_questioning_users_ that they won't use a helpfile. They often have
nothing to do with the quality of the help, but rather the quality of the
training (or complete lack thereof).

I often see certain assumptions of competency show up in discussions here,
-- not a problem, if you work in an environment where those assumptions are
true, but many of us work in an environment where employee training does
not include basic subjects like use of the operating system (users are
expected to already know it by media osmosis, apparently), trainers who do
not write the materials gloss over or skip subjects they deem unnecessary
because they don't know their own audience, and users only find out about
training and reference materials by word of mouth.
A quick example: I had a developer who was convinced the users
couldn't be trained on the system until they got their userIDs set up; this
despite the fact the security form used to set the IDs up requires a
signature verifying that the person has been trained on the use of the
system. It turns out the developer (who was also the trainer) was so used
to on-the-job training, he wasn't using the training materials when he had
them, thereby reinforcing the idea in the users' minds that the materials
weren't useful. I only found out after crashing a training session that he
wasn't bothering to even *mention* the online reference manual's existence
(the developers didn't bother to incorporate *any* link to help from within
the app., so I had to make it a standalone file accessible through the


------forwarded text:------------
Dunno if this will work, but it's an idea:

Talk to the HelpDesk people. Express your interest in reducing their
workload by getting users to use the help available instead of going to
them for every piddlin' little thing (usually tech support gets sick of
"how do I use this, where's the Any key?" kinds of questions anyway, so it
shouldn't be too hard to enlist their help). Ask if (possibly following
some training from you on how to use the helpfile to its best effect) they
could walk users through the helpfile whenever they call in with those
kinds of questions, rather than just answering the questions for them
*Showing* the users how the answer was at their fingertips all along
can address several causes of this behavior: (1) fear of using help
(something a lot of techies underestimate or dismiss offhand, but which has
been given to me _by_users_ as the reason they won't use confuses
them, because the commonly-understood conventions of helpfiles really
aren't, and few people train users on how to use the helpfiles when they
train them how to use the app. Usually, helpfiles are referenced in
training as a "by the way, if you hit help you'll get the helpfile" which
accomplished nothing.), (2) pure ignorance over helpfile content (I've had
users not realize what kinds of information are available in a helpfile
simply because it had never come up...many users are unaware of
context-sensitive help unless they are specifically shown it as part of the
training), and (3) impatience/arrogance (finding the answer to a question
so easily available can embarrass arrogant, difficult users into going to
help first so they don't look like an idiot in front of people they feel
are their peers or subordinates).

-------------end forwarded text------------------------------

While the "customer is always right" is usually a necessary maxim to
follow, sometimes the customer simply isn't. Sometimes, they just want
things to work their way, so they don't *have* to learn how to use the
product. Before arbitrarily redesigning the help, it would be good to
verify whether or not the problem might be coming from another element in
the communication loop. Communication requires reception of the message, as
well as projection of the message. If something impedes reception, you can
rework the message all you want and they'll never get it.

Just my opinion, but I figured that part
of the issue was underrepresented so far,
(now watch, Geoff will have posted this amazingly clear, concise post that
says everything I just tried to say and more while I've been sitting here

Collect Royalties, Not Rejection Letters! Tell us your rejection story when you
submit your manuscript to iUniverse Nov. 6 -Dec. 15 and get five free copies of
your book. What are you waiting for?

Have you looked at the new content on TECHWR-L lately?
See and check it out.

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Previous by Author: Users vs. usage
Next by Author: offline courtesy among list members
Previous by Thread: RE: Encouraging users to read online help
Next by Thread: RE: Encouraging users to read online help

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads