RE: Encouraging users to read online help

Subject: RE: Encouraging users to read online help
From: "Cekis, Margaret" <Margaret -at- mediaocean -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2001 10:50:02 -0500

Kevin McLauchlan [mailto:KMcLauchlan -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com] bemoaned his
experience with Help:

"First, I imagine (for no good reason except that it's
somehow better than imagining the other possibility...)
that the creators of Help in general do so in good faith."

"But... my experience with Help has been the same
almost from the first time I ever encountered the
beast....that when browsing for fun/interest, I find all
sorts of neat things in Help, that I may even remember when
the day comes to use them ... but when I dive into Help with a
specific need and a deadline looming, well suddenly
Help dries up."

"I find that the keywords I'm looking for are rarely
the ones that the Help is expecting. I may know what
I want, but I find myself asking the wrong questions
of the Help, and getting led astray....I especially like
getting an error message,... and a search returns "no match
for text string".

If you're keeping these experiences in mind, you've made the first step in
making your Help helpful to your users. It has to be tuned to the users'
current or previous environment. For instance, if I were writing Help for a
Windows app knowing that the users had only used Unix apps before, in
addition indexing the the names of Menu terms and GUI features, I'd also
index them using the comparable Unix command names with which the users were
already familiar, indicating the appropriate (see XXXXX) cross-references.

Margaret Cekis
Margaret -at- mediaocean -dot- com

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