Re: Opinions on Embedded Help?

Subject: Re: Opinions on Embedded Help?
From: jhe <jhe -at- POLYDOC -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 16:42:58 +0100

David Castro asked:

>Should we give users an option to turn off embedded help, or should we keep
>it always there so that it's always giving them different things to read?

I'm not sure what exactly embedded help is, but from what you wrote I
gather that the help text is always visible.
I don't think it's always true that users will eventually read what's
under their nose. If the information shown the first few times did not
pertain to their situation, users will lose their interest in it and
just not bother to read everything. I think you can compare this with
solutions like *Tip of the day* or *Office Assistants*, most people
want to turn it off. Users will hunt for information when they need it,
I cannot force thm to read it not when I as author want them to read it.
On the other hand, when they do need help, they are gonna look for it. I
doubt if they'll always find it if it's right under their noses.
Remember the E.A. Poe story on the stolen letter: If you place it right
in sight, no one will find it. They'll find it sooner when they have to
look for it!

> "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink...
> ...but you *can* dunk its head under water and kick it up the backside!"

But that doesn't necessarily mean it'll drink the water! It can kick
back, drown or take a huge gulp with no refreshing qualities whatsoever.
I agree you have to guide them as much as possible, but you shouldn't
underestimate them as well.
Perhaps you can first make a small test version and see what the
reactions and comments of test users are before you apply it.

Good luck,

Jeroen Hendrix
the Netherlands

Mail to:jhe -at- polydoc -dot- com

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