User Assistance Design, 10 Best Practices

17Dec08

The time of long PDF manuals is over. Why? Software moves online (SaaS) and you don´t get your nice box with manuals (which I read whenever I can´t find the information online).

Moreover I get feedback that our users don´t read the manual (RTFM is an utopia). They want the assistence when the problem occurs. When is this? Within your product.

And what if you can´t put the assistence there? Make it easily accessible (search, links, etc)

Just some thought… But why not go through below 10 steps and I am sure your customers will be grateful.

  1. Step into the user’s shoes—in mind and in practice.
  2. Borrow fearlessly
  3. Plan, estimate, budget, schedule, and track
  4. Create small chunks of information
  5. Provide good navigation
  6. Pack user assistance with examples
  7. Highlight hints and tips
  8. Offer supplementary information
  9. Keep user assistance consistent
  10. Practice Kaizen

> Read the whole article here

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2 Responses to “User Assistance Design, 10 Best Practices”

  1. 1 C Maddin

    True, the phrase “Read the … manual” is not a great answer when a user gets into trouble using an application. But that’s not to say that a manual in PDF format is not a good option or an outdated mode of help. Providing your users with a “manual” in PDF gives you the advantage of packaging all the information about your software into a single portable searchable file. However, it’s important to remember that a PDF document must complement other methods of user assistance. PDF is just one output format of the content development process.

    With companies now trying to keep costs down and get the software out the door as quickly as possible, managers and stakeholders will likely forgo user assistance and application help rather than functionality. But this has a knock-on effect: there’s nothing worse than a user who, first, is frustrated because of bad UI, and then is frustrated by bad help, whether it’s online, inline, or in a PDF. The last thing you need is a frustrated user calling technical support because they can’t “use” the application. And this inevitably leads to the “Read the … manual” phrase. Which in turn leads to lost customers, tarnished brand recognition, negative reviews , etc.

    Great user assistance requires a dedicated team of designers, product experts and professional writers. For most small software houses, this is not a priority and there are a plethora of “saas” applications on the web as testimony to that. Exceptions excluded.

    • 2 Remko Vermeulen

      Completely agree with you. Although with little resources but with some good thinking you can achive quite a lot.


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