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User Assistance

Some notes for Frank by MVP Rob Chandler

KeyTools (free from www.keyworks.net ) uses "expand to the right" embedded help pane for their dialogs.
Not sure if Ralph and Cheri embedded a HH Window or a simple browser. I suspect a simple browser control and an additional toolbar,

  • Can't lose the help window.
  • Not far to find help.
  • Great for novice: Work with a guide pinned to the work area.
  • Must keep help brief.
  • Not all apps have the space to do this.
  • Limited space available for text.
  • Not suite for all apps.
  • Must keep help brief.
This type of help needs to be brief and to the point. Remembering that help is not there to be admired. The user simply wants a quick leg up to complete the task or orientate themselves.

No dead ends:   Provide a link somewhere to the full blown verbose help (if required). Help window has TOC, Index, Search navigation, support info, ability to print, enlarge the screen, more reading, etc.


Office 2007 UA

A great example of good UA is Office 2007.

Controls use clear English sentences. Web style pages are fresh with good layout (not crammed). UA hover tips are only on controls that need it.
First page contains popular settings (so don't have to weed through pages of irrelavent settings).

The boundaries between software and help (UI and UA) are blurring. Today's software designer and Help author must work more closely together.

UI and UA text should always use correct English grammar. Don't use shorthand. Don't use techno-babble. Use full stops.

Embedded UA text makes the task clear and discoverable.

Want to read more?

This page has more notes on UI and UA design.