Data on who uses Help? (Take II)

Subject: Data on who uses Help? (Take II)
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2002 14:56:29 -0500

Jamie Ker continued the discussion:

<<Is there a good source for data on typical load times for Help over a
modem? What shd modem users expect?>>

Modem performance is highly variable, and depends (among other things) on
the load on the user's system (the amount of multitasking going on), the
load on the server that's providing the help pages, and the load on all
servers in between the two. It also depends on line noise, which is variable
and may (not sure about this) depend on the amount of traffic on the lines.
And if the person's internet connection is acting up (awfully common in my
experience), how are they going to get help at all?

Bill Gates and his "all Internet, all the time" attitude notwithstanding, I
think it's cruel to expect users to have to dial up your Web server, hope
it's up and running, and wait for downloads. Help should be tightly
integrated with the application, and only if that's a Web page should the
help be accessed over the Web. At some point, we'll all be using 2nd or 3rd
generation cable modems that download the entire Web in the blink of an eye;
until then, use Web help with caution.

<<Do we assume any correlation between the user's level of expertise and the
speed of their Internet connection?>>

Nope. I have several non-techy friends who use cable modems. Me, I'm
relatively techy, but won't pay the extra fees for cable because I don't use
the Web enough.

<<What compromises should the Help provider (eg Web app company) make to
accommodate modem users--should we eschew Help platforms that take too long
to load...?>>

We shouldn't make any compromises. Few enough people use Help as it is--in
part because of the inferior quality of the technology and of many help
systems--without us decreasing that number further by making the Help
experience even less bearable.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"With Linux, customers end up being in the operating systems business,
managing software updates and security patches while making sure the
multitude of software packages don't conflict with each other."--Microsoft
spokesperson in a article

"And just how would that be different from Windows?"--Adam Engst, TidBITS

PC Magazine gives RoboHelp Office 2002 five stars - a perfect score!
"The ultimate developer's tool for designing help systems. A product
no professional help designer should be without." Check out RoboHelp at

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