online help usability

Subject: online help usability
From: Steve Owens <uso01 -at- EAGLE -dot- UNIDATA -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 7 Apr 1994 17:29:18 +0700

To fellow online help developers:

> My coworkers and I have been wondering if the word 'help' is
> still a appropriate name to use for online information. [...]

Indeed, it isn't, and I doubt it ever was. People use that
word for many things, including online quick-reference, online
tutorials, and computer-based training. Sometimes people do online
documentation - visually and organizationally identical to the printed
document, just delivered electronically with some minimal viewer
technology - and call that online help.

> Our online help consists of a graphical guided tour and concepts
> section, along with help on windows, a glossary, task directory, etc.
> It is really the manual online, but in a different format (not just an
> online dump of the manual).


> Has anyone ever thought about using another word besides 'help' to
> describe that section of the online product? It seems that these days
> it is so much more than just help.

I've seriously thought of trying to convince people to change
the name, and I tend to refer to it by one of the terms I use above
(online reference, etc) but I doubt I'd have a serious chance of
changing what we call it here. I try to use the appropriate term
(reference, tutorial, CBT) when discussing the project, to craft the
proper impression in the hearer's mind about what I'm saying. I think
that all-too-often, people have different meanings in mind for some
piece of jargon, and will use that to hear what they want to hear, not
what you're saying.

Steven J. Owens
uso01 -at- unidata -dot- com

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