Assumptions (was: Designing a new help system)

Subject: Assumptions (was: Designing a new help system)
From: "Jane Bergen" <jbergen1 -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "Kathi Jan Knill" <Kathi -dot- Knill -at- template -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 19:58:21 -0600

Hold on folks. We're making some assumptions about online help that
"ain't necessarily so"!

From: "Kathi Jan Knill" <Kathi -dot- Knill -at- template -dot- com>
> I think they are evil! If the user is accessing help, he is already
at the
> screen he needs to know about. It can be more confusing if even one

and from Justin Cascio

> I'd lean on the developers to name those screens,
> and avoid screen shots. If the help's context-sensitive,
> it's redundant,

(and lots of other similar comments)

While I do not put screen shots in online help, it's more for
mechanical reasons than for the assumption that the user already has
the "screen" in sight. Many times I've used the full-text search,
contents, index, or other links to get to a page.

My pet peeve is in not being told how to GET to that page. For
example, today I tried to find how to use the "picture tube" feature
in PaintShop Pro 5.0. Okay...found four topics that all began "Click
the Picture Tube tool" -- I never found any such animal. If I can't
get to it through a menu selection, then show me what the heck it's
supposed to look like. I finally decided I must not have it installed
because I found it on my PSP at home, after looking it up in the
manual and slowly cursoring over every tool icon. Sure wasted lots of
time, though, at work. I was trying to show someone this feature.

So...moral of this story. Don't assume anything...and help your user
out if something is not so obvious.

Jane Bergen
jbergen1 -at- earthlink -dot- net

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