Helping first time users, Guiding experienced users
16 Sep 2005 - 4:30pm
10 years ago
Desktop applications currently and over the years have taken many
approaches to teaching or guiding users within the software. It seems
as if software help system trends come and go. Many discussions I've
had end up being similar to a Friar's Club Roast of Clippy :-).
01 First time use
Many applications which don't map perfectly to a well known schema
such as Word or Email may require a small initial learning curve.
Once users get over this initial 'hump" they have an understanding
and comfort with the tools. The component needs an opt-out. This
solution can be supported by tertiary collateral such as a tutorial
or Quickstart guide, but these tend not to be contextual enough,
meaning they require the user to view the help in a different viewer
or look at a printed sheet. I remember Apple used to have a help
mode which would circle the next step with a big red circle.
Traditional tool tips are a good example of contextual help but I
think we need a more prominent solution for the first time user. It's
really like having a friend who can help you get started and lead you
down a path then go away once your successfully over that hump. Any
good examples out there?
02 Ongoing Tips
Suggestions that can be activated by the user when needed during the
course of their workflow. For example, little talk bubble icons
appear when the system/agent/editorial assistant has a tip or
information that isn't critical, but could be helpful. Clicking or
rolling over the talk bubble shows a 1-2 paragraph tip with a link to
greater information if desired. How do designers best accomplish this
goal without being too invasive?
Our user research has indicated a possible need for these two types
contextual help. Just curious if folks on the list have experience
with testing help solutions, examples of novel approaches, or simply
ideas how best to implement help strategies in these two cases. There
are some common approaches, but it be interesting to hear what else
is going on out there around this area.