Re: On-Line Help User Data

Subject: Re: On-Line Help User Data
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 1996 11:25:06 -0800

At 05:04 PM 3/25/96 -0800, Tracy_Heldt -at- globalvillag -dot- com wrote:

>In addition, have you encountered any research regarding
>what users expect from an on-line help system? (A large
>topic, I know, but I'm just interested in pointers to
>relevant research.)


As far as I know, the information on how users access and
use online help and what they expect from online help isn't
anywhere in a book (yet???). Much of the information I have
has been from usability testing (both my own and reports
I've seen from other usability testers.

The utest list is an excellent source of information. The
subscription address is listproc -at- hubcap -dot- clemson -dot- edu

Jared Spool of User Interface Engineering in Andover, MA
does a lot of usability testing for help systems. He conducts
seminars and publishes an excellent newsletter. You can contact
Jared at jspool -at- uie -dot- com

If you're going to the STC Conference in Seattle, drop in on
the sessions that Marlana Coe is giving. She's also an
excellent source of information. She's based in Santa Monica,
CA and, no, sorry, I don't have contact information for her.

Microsoft did extensive usability testing for the online help
in Win 95. I think, but I'm not sure, that they've put some
of this information on the Web.

I'll be giving a talk on user-centered design principles
of online help tonight, here in San Diego. I call it
"Writing for Short-Attention-Span Theater". Some of the
points I'll be covering are:

* Users only access help for 30 seconds to 2 minutes at a time

* When they want to find something, they use the search engine
more often than the Contents page

* If they don't see the information they want immediately, they
assume it's not there -- they will not access a second panel
or even scroll to the bottom of the current one

* Users won't read procedures that are more than 3 or 4 steps

Hope this is enough to get you started.

-Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com

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