Re: Saying "RTFM" out loud (was Everyday [was: Style question: "war d ial" ...

Subject: Re: Saying "RTFM" out loud (was Everyday [was: Style question: "war d ial" ...
From: Steven Brown <stevenabrown -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: mlist -at- ca -dot- rainbow -dot- com, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2004 11:48:27 -0800 (PST)

I've been theorizing for some time now that many
people don't use online help because they simply don't
know it exists or how to access it. There are other
reasons, too (such as shallow content, poorly
organized content, etc.), but after watching
third-party usability sessions at my former employer,
I was suprised at just how many people didn't know how
to access online help. Those who did, couldn't
confidently navigate its content (which begs the
question whether a TOC or index is of any use to most
of our users in this age of easy, one-click Googling).

That said, how do we tackle this challenge? Two ideas:

- When client or end-user training is conducted,
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS (did I mention, always?)
incorporate an extensive module about using online
help. (How many times have your heard trainers say,
"Oh, and by the way, you can click the question mark
to get help. Now, let's break for lunch.") Make sure
the trainees spend a lot of time using the help so
that it becomes familiar. Better yet, use it
throughout the training so that procedures and tasks
are reinforced via the help, NOT the training
materials (which often repeat what's already available
and are usually discarded after use, while help
remains always available).

- Train customer service staff to integrate online
help into their conversations with customers. This is
tricky, because you don't want to be perceived as
wasting customers' time, but through tactful language,
you can suggest to customers, "Mr. Posada, before I
let you go, can I very quickly show you some of the
help that we've incorporated into our Acme WiZBang
software? It's a wonderful resource when you need a
quick reminder about dealing with a tricky situation
like the one we just talked about."

Of course that obliges us TWs to design help that
truly is "wonderful" -- easy to access, well organized
content, etc.

People won't use what's unfamiliar. At least that's my
theory, should any grad students or doctoral
candidates out there want to test it!

Steven Brown
Senior Technical Writer

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