Re: Online/print

Subject: Re: Online/print
From: mpriestley -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 1994 10:58:44 EDT

Elna Tymes writes:
>somewhat irrelevant. What do you do if your (extremely intelligent but
>incredibly busy) user community won't use the tools available, and the program
>itself isn't particularly intuitive? What to you do about the basic problem
>of overload? Documentation - whether paper or online - can only do so much.

I think this is a very valid concern. For example, a company can spend
a great deal of money putting together an impressive and helpful multimedia
tutorial, which has an immediate and profound effect on the productivity
of the 2% of customers who use it (stats are imaginary, not study-based).
This can be extremely frustrating (not to mention costly, both for the
company and its customers), and it's tempting to just blame the customers
for being bull-headed ignoramuses ("if you have trouble, and then you
whine and complain but don't read the manual where we explain the problem
on PAGE ONE then..." <fume>).

One of the useful possibilities here is a more responsive and interactive
help system. Rather than a reference manual that sits on your desk in
its original wrapping (or in its original folder online), you get something
like Mac's bubble help, and perhaps a monitoring system that looks for
"trouble signs" (like repetitive unproductive command sequences - eg
scanning and closing menus over and over again - or the same info message
coming up three times in a row, or...), and then displays/updates a monitor
window with a helpful hint/explanation, and a list of possible tasks they
are attempting. Then, if they select a task, the help system can walk
them through it, step by step, monitoring them for mistakes and correcting
them gently (with an explanation geared towards the misunderstanding that
might generate that mistake).

This kind of help could be very annoying to an experienced user (even if it's
a monitor window, rather than something that pops up obtrusively), so there
could be a switch to turn it off. But the switch could be hidden enough
that the help system has to intrude to help you find it, so that by the time
you turn it off you've learned to appreciate it :-)

Take care,

Michael Priestley
mpriestley -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
Disclaimer: speaking on my own behalf, not IBM's.

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