Re: online help usability

Subject: Re: online help usability
From: Faith Weber <weber -at- EASI -dot- ENET -dot- DEC -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 8 Apr 1994 09:28:35 PDT

I don't mean to throw a damper on this thread, but I don't
buy the idea that changing the name of Help would encourage
more people to use it. If you present me with a bear and
say it's a puppy, I'm still going to run like hell.

Help is just like other documentation: most people (myself included!)
only use it when they can't figure something out on their own, and
are pretty desperate for information. If they can figure out
a way to do what they want, even if it's not necessarily the
best way, they'll just go ahead and do it. Unfortunately, many
people feel very skeptical about their ability to find the
information they really want, anyway. Also unfortunately, I think
that skepticism is pretty realistic -- there's a lot of variation
in organization schemes, terminology, etc. I'm an experienced user
of well-established products, but I still have trouble finding
information about features I haven't used yet.

I think a lot of people have had bad experiences with Help, and
with documentation, and even if you change the name of the menu
or the manual, they're still going to recognize it as "something
that made me want to tear my hair out last time I tried to use it"!

Not that I think our efforts are pointless -- on the contrary,
I just think we need to make help and documentation *very*
painless and easy to use if we want people to use it. No small
feat!! That's what makes this work so challenging.

Faith Weber
EA Systems Inc.
weber -at- easi -dot- enet -dot- dec -dot- com

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