Re: Data on who uses Help?

Subject: Re: 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: Tue, 26 Mar 2002 00:11:54 -0800

Jonathan West wrote:

Help that is targeted at a beginner usually consists of step-by-step
instructions on "how to do this", and might arguably be better presented in
a booklet than a help file. (I'm sure we can all have a good argument about

There is a printed user's guide that "beginners" can purchase. But "beginner" here could refer to a beginner with the software, not necessarily a beginning computer user.

For advanced users, (and I am an advanced user of some software) the purpose
of Help becomes rather different. Instead of being a linear "instruction
guide" it becomes for me more like an encyclopaedia, where I look up a topic
that I want to deal with at the moment, and then put it away again. I want
the access to be as instant as possible, I want the information to be
correct and up-to-date, and I *only* want the information that is directly
relevant to what I need to know right now. A book or web lookup doesn't
achieve those things in the way I want and need.

I wonder if calling Help something other than "Help" would appeal to advanced users more. Maybe call it "reference" or something, if "Help" is typically associated with content that you, as an advanced user, aren't interested in.

Where Help is effectively organised this way, I use it all the time, if only
to refresh my memory on the exact details of a topic I already know.

The context-sensitive help that is available for Word VBA is an example of
what mean, where you can position the cursor on a keyword, press F1, and
the help topic for that keyword appears, with links to related items.

Jonathan West

Thanks for your comments.


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

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RE: Data on who uses Help?: From: Jonathan West

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