unhelpful help

Subject: unhelpful help
From: Bonni Graham <bonnig -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 11 Nov 1995 10:25:04 -0800

George Allaman wrote:

><snip>They seem to assume you already know how to find the
>information you are looking for. In fact, it's generally something very
>obsure or you would probably not need help. I think your comment on the
>lack of synonyms is right on target.

On some levels I agree with this, but I'd like to turn the discussion around
a little. If you've encountered a help system that was unhelpful, have you
ever considered calling or emailing the company that produced it about the
matter? (I have, BTW, and do.)

Oftentimes, the writer of the help system is working in a vacuum. Some
clients (and even companies w/in-house writers) do not seem to want to share
any knowledge of the marketplace with the writers. If you are working in a
field somewhat unfamiliar to you, you may not KNOW all the synonyms users
may enter. Until you get feedback from those users, you WILL NOT know all
the synonyms. Sometimes even if you know the field very well, you may not
know all the synonyms your readers will try. The same rule about feedback

I'd also like to remind people that a lot of companies don't hire writers to
do their help (or any of their documentation). The help systems you describe
(and I've encountered them, too) may very well have been written by someone
untrained in basic help system concepts.

The point? Never underestimate the power of complaint. One voice may not be
enough to change the entire system, but if you can get through to the right
people, you can change at least the issues you're concerned about. I
devoutly hope that anyone using one of my help files and not finding what
they need would contact the developer and ask for changes. I can never get
enough feedback on keywords and indexes.

Bonni Graham
Manual Labour
bonnig -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com

Previous by Author: Re: Using software your clients propos
Next by Author: Re: writing around desgin flaws
Previous by Thread: Academic Position Announcement (NC State)
Next by Thread: What is this cuffing tish?

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads