my test users and the online/paper discussion

Subject: my test users and the online/paper discussion
From: WandaJane Phillips <wandajp -at- ANDYNE -dot- ON -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 1994 22:03:33 GMT

We recently ran some usability tests on a pre-alpha version of some
software. I included some online help (focussing on the topics being
explored in the tests). I had heard again and again about users
prefering online help (easier to explore, quicker...)

Of the 6 test users - 2 actually USED the online help and ALL were
dismayed that there was no paper documentation. Among the comments were

- I like to have the book so I can keep it open at the page I'm using.
- I like to use books, I don't read well on the screen.
- I just prefer books, I'm used to them. I use them all the time.

An earlier usability test had very similar results. Nearly every test
user explained that the product was good, but they learn by reading
manuals and didn't feel they could really explore the product without
the manuals.

I was shocked and surprised. I learn by exploring and I use manuals
primarily to 1) get a feel for the basics of a program, navigation
methods and formats used and 2) to really dig into a feature once I am
comfortable with the product.

We are writing a _Getting Started_ tutorial that covers the basics of
the product, an _examples_ guide that presents a set of scenarios in
which people use the product (we show the nitty gritty details and
provide the appropriate electronic samples so people can play along if
they want), and an encyclopeadic reference. Hopefully ONE of these
books will provide the info. We're using the info in the tutorial and
reference (structured differently but textually similar) for online
help, as well as some additional info.

... waja ...
opinions?! opinions?! we don't need no stinking opinions!
don't sit under the Bodhi tree with anyone else but me... anyone else
but me...

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