Data on who uses Help?

Subject: Data on who uses Help?
From: rudman -at- netscape -dot- com (Steve Rudman)
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 24 Mar 2002 00:19:08 -0800

I'm looking for technical literature about online help users.

Who uses help? Is there a typical profile for someone who uses online help? I'm also interested in articles that address whether the profile of the target user for a software application is the same as the target user of the help.

My impression is that most help targets a "beginner" user (here, beginner means someone with minimal experience with the type of application being used). More advanced topics are often handled in an independent way, often outside of the help system itself (possibly in a book, at least in the case of software programs, as distinct from web applications).

Software programs or web apps are often written with a target user in mind, and the target user might be someone with intermediate software skills. If these apps have help systems, do the people using the help system correspond exactly with the target audience for the app itself? Or is there some sort of difference?

Is there a rationale for having "advanced" topics in online help, if the people interested in such topics are not those who would typically use an online help system? Or is there evidence that users at both ends of the spectrum---beginning and advanced---are inclined to use help?

Thanks in advance for any pointers.


Steve Rudman
Manager, Information Design Group
Netscape Communications
rudman -at- netscape -dot- com

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