Re: Usability studies and online help?

Subject: Re: Usability studies and online help?
From: Steven Brown <stevenabrown -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2005 06:56:34 -0700 (PDT)

Thanks for the feedback, Geoff. Your report is similar
to my experience observing usability studies for a
payroll application a few years ago.

We found that another major factor that contributed to
users' non-use of online help directly related to the
importance of the task at hand. What we heard, from
users who were generally low-level payroll clerks, was
something like this:

"When my boss (the HR or accounting manager) tells me
to pay our CEO a $25,000 bonus and I have a question
about how to withhold taxes, I don't want to rely on
online help and risk screwing up his payroll. I'd
rathertalk to someone on your help desk, who can
assure me that I've taken care of the situation

Imagine you're a technician for NASA a few years after
the Challenger disaster in the 1980s. You're
installing the O-rings and have a question. Are you
going to rely solely on the installation guide or are
you going to call an engineer at the manufacturer?
Maybe you start with the manual, but it's the
face-to-face conversation with the engineer that's
going to help you sleep at night.

And that was an excellent suggestion about ensuring
that help is introduced during training. We shouldn't
be surprised that help is unused when no one takes the
time to show it to users! I'd even take the idea a
step further by asking the trainers to use online help
to answer the trainees' questions. "Bob, that's a good
question about adding a bulleted list in Word. I'll
show you how, but let me also show you how to find the
same information in the online help should you forget
between now and the next time you need to create a
bulleted list." Do that five or six times, and our
users will be much more comfortable navigating online

Steven Brown

--- Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca> wrote:

> Not necessarily what you're looking for, but a
> couple data points:
> Several years back, I attended an STC session by (I
> believe) Scott
> DeLoach, who reported the results of a study of
> software users: the
> statistics are long gone from my memory, but the
> message I took away is
> that a great many people don't use help because they
> don't know it's
> there; another large chunk know it's there but
> haven't figured out how
> to use it, and won't try; and another large chunk
> have used poorly
> executed help before and hated it so much they won't
> ever go back.

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Usability studies and online help?: From: Geoff Hart

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