WinHelp 95 help approach

Subject: WinHelp 95 help approach
From: scot <scot -at- HCI -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 09:11:36 +1100

>The minimalist approach reduces or eliminates wordy sections of help files,
>assuming that the user has popped up help for stepwise coaching, not for
>long-winded explanations. There are few conceptual explanations in 95. There
>are lots of steps. This is a major break with Microsoft's philosophy in the
>past, which balanced steps and explanation. Apparently the user should now
>open the manual if he wants a longer discussion.

>I have to say that the minimalist approach appeals to me for future software
>projects. Users seem to like it because it answers their immediate needs and
>they don't need to scroll as often. Still, I know others won't appreciate
>the lack of explanatory text, thinking that the steps aren't much good
>without understanding why or what the steps are meant to do. My take on it
>is that in most cases the user, at the point of clicking "help," is
>crotch-deep in binary crocodiles and doesn't want or need concepts. He wants
>a way over the bump.

Certainly I was most disappointed with the documentation supplied for Office
7.0 (the 32 bit version). Apart from the VERY twee printed 'manual' that
came with it (Chapter titles like 'Find the magic numbers', or 'Order for
the court'!), the online help is totally useless for advanced use.

For example, there are plenty of cryptic fields on dialogs that deliver the
dreaded "No Help on Topic", even where the dialog as a whole has a stupid
and not-very-informative help topic telling you what you can use this dialog
for.

While the -system- is a big improvement, the new -content- is quite frankly
and excuse the french, totally f**king cr*p (I am sorry I had to resort to
that language, but there is no other accurate way to describe it, IMNSHO).
There is NO excuse for missing (vital) information in a product this complex
from a compnay that rich.

I sent an email to the address listed on the back of the manual; so far I
have had no reply (except for a 'bot generated message), so that tells you a
little of their attitude towards customers.

The problem is as far as I can tell, for Microsoft "audience analysis" means
'find the bell curve' and document for the mythical average user with the
mythical average computer familiarity and the mythical average education,
instead of identifying all the possible audiences and producing
documentation for the major ones.

It really pisses me off and if I did not -have- to buy their products, I
would not (I guess Chairman Bill couldn't give a tinkers cuss about that as
long as I'm forced to keep buying his product).

ciao, scot
(who has now made himself angry just thinking about it)
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HCI Consulting, GPO Box 4846 Sydney NSW 2001 Australia.
http://www.hci.com.au/management/
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