Creating the "User Help System" - is there a case for too much information?

  1. 2 weeks ago

    Steve K

    May 15 Melbourne, Australia

    I'm at the point now where my software application is working well and the only thing left to do is to create a help system.

    My software is not too complicated, it's only one screen. However, there are many options on that screen. I've used help tags, where required and pop-up messages if the user does the wrong thing etc. But I still need an "overall" help system.

    I accept It's always going to be an individual solution.

    The upshot is that I find myself in the situation that I'm writing the help system and it's going to take a long long time, ie. a few weeks or more, after hours. Writing any possible scenario - it's too much work.

    So, back to my question. I'm trying to detail "everything" way too verbose. Perhaps it "does" all need to be documented, or maybe not.

    I understand there is no simple cut and dry answers to this, just your thoughts on how you go about providing user help, would be much appreciated.

    Cheers.

  2. Mark C

    May 15 Pre-Release Testers, Xojo Pro Spain 35510

    Hello Steve,
    Having done this commercially many times I think where I stand now is to do an INDEX first, put down the immediately attention grabbing functions with a very short 10 word or so indicator of what that function is, before doing anything else, and a more concise explanation in the main text. I also find that the help needs to be hyper linked to allow a user to jump about to the main body without scrolling.
    As you say, its a big job and can be the downfall of a good app if its a bad help.

    I also find that a first attempt at the help does not need to be the only attempt, sometimes the presentation of the initial content (index) may need tweaking, but the main body may be the same.

    the old adage 'a journey starts with a single step' is very applicable in this scenario, good luck....

  3. Steve K

    May 15 Melbourne, Australia
    Edited 2 weeks ago

    Thanks for your insights Mark.

    I'm smart enough to know there is no easy solution to this, and stupid enough to think somehow there is. :) I guess it's just hard yards ahead.

    I've tried to be smart and have hyperlinks in a way (non-traditional). I've tried to make the whole program work so simply, to the point that it's own simplicity becomes complicated, to the point that perhaps I need a help system to describe the help system itself - utter madness !!!

    I've got to break this down to zero point and re-think it. It's now all about "usability". As you pointed out, there is no point creating some fantastic software solution if no-one can work out how to use it.

    Cheers.

  4. Julia T

    May 15 Sandy Hook, Connecticut

    I've used HelpLogic and UniHelp before and found them, uh, helpful. Unfortunately they look a bit orphaned, not sure how well they work under current Mac & Windows OSs.

    http://www.patentsteward.com/page10/page24/

  5. Beatrix W

    May 15 Pre-Release Testers Europe (Germany)

    I use Rapidweaver to have a html manual as part of the app and then as website.

    Think workflow. What are your users going to do when they start your app.

  6. Sascha S

    May 15 Pre-Release Testers, Xojo Pro Germany/W'haven

    On macOS i use Help Crafter .

  7. Steve K

    May 15 Melbourne, Australia

    @Beatrix W I use Rapidweaver to have a html manual as part of the app and then as website.

    Think workflow. What are your users going to do when they start your app.

    At this point the user has a screen that tells/shows them what to do when they start the app. That part works nicely and I don't think I need an external solution to tell me that - with all due respect.

    My issue is that I think I'm "doubling up" on the user help - I need to cut it back.

    My idea is that the user help is "inter-active" enough that the user does not need further help. Obviously that is not good enough.

    The method of showing the help system via HTMLviewer would be great, but it is not good enough for what I want. Displaying as a pdf within a canvas? - no go, as far as I can see.

    This is not about the "tools" needed. Let's just say I already have them. This is about "user" inter-activeness. Nothing more, nothing less.

  8. Julia T

    May 15 Sandy Hook, Connecticut
    Edited 2 weeks ago

    @SteveKelepouris your thoughts on how you go about providing user help, would be much appreciated.

    Apparently not so much. You asked for thoughts but seem to be rejecting them. Hard to tell what kind of answer you are looking for.

    Most apps use a combination of help tags, a little prompting text in dialogs and so forth, and a complete User Manual of some kind, usually accessed via the Help menu. The latter can provide in-app help via the OS's built-in standardized help system (for which specialized external tools are helpful/needed) or vector to an external website (which you can compose using any html editor).

  9. Steve K

    May 15 Melbourne, Australia

    Fair enough Julia.

    I don't reject thoughts, but in the end, I guess I'm the one who has to take it or leave it.

    Writing a Manual? Yep, that's exactly what I'm doing right now. Hence the questions.

    My point was how I can/could reduce having too much information shown to the user in a timely manner, ie. when they need it. I think I've come up with a reasonable solution.

    Thank you everyone.

  10. Beatrix W

    May 15 Pre-Release Testers Europe (Germany)

    Only your users can tell you what is enough. Most users don't read the manual. But those that do read always want more information.

    Oh, recently I started doing simple videos with Fleeq.io .

  11. Steve K

    May 15 Melbourne, Australia
    Edited 2 weeks ago

    And my point was more philosophical, as in a view, not just coding.

    Beatrix, please don't take this as an opportunity to sell your wares - I reject it completely. Please remove your last post.

  12. Steve K

    May 15 Melbourne, Australia
    Edited 2 weeks ago

    When this sort of thing happens, then this thread becomes disingenuous.

    If this thread becomes disingenuous, then I should be the one to make it so. :) Please edit/remove your last post. Your motives are clear.

  13. Paul S

    May 15 Pre-Release Testers, Xojo Pro Europe (Netherlands, Den Haag)
    Edited 2 weeks ago

    @SteveKelepouris Beatrix, please don't take this as an opportunity to sell your wares

    What makes you think that Beatrix is selling Fleeq as her wares?
    As far as I can see there is absolute no indication that she is.
    I believe she is indicating that videos can be more helpful than help documentation.

  14. Steve K

    May 15 Melbourne, Australia
    Edited 2 weeks ago

    @Beatrix W Only your users can tell you what is enough. Most users don't read the manual. But those that do read always want more information.

    Oh, recently I started doing simple videos with Fleeq.io .

    Quite simple Paul:

    Oh, "I" recently started simple videos etc...

    It's very plain to see and detracts from my original message. I guess not a big deal, but it is there, plain and simple.

    Perhaps helpful - but I don't appreciate it :) in this context.

  15. Beatrix W

    May 15 Pre-Release Testers Europe (Germany)

    I wanted to help you. Guess, I'll stop doing this.

  16. Me, used the standard website creation tool to create the help system. Depends if (AppWrapper, for example), accept the files as a Help System.

  17. Steve K

    May 15 Melbourne, Australia

    Beatrix, Helping is fine, very good and appreciated, but when you push a point to your own self serving videos, then that can be looked at as serving yourself.

    Just take a lesson, sit down and think about it.

    Give me something about my original question, your ideas.

  18. Paul S

    May 15 Pre-Release Testers, Xojo Pro Europe (Netherlands, Den Haag)

    Unbelievable!
    What a rude reaction against Beatrix.
    Beatrix has always been and still is a very nice and friendly person and would never do what you are accusing her of.
    For me you have gone to far.
    I'm going to block you.

  19. Steve K

    May 15 Melbourne, Australia

    We all make mistakes - it's not the end of the world, relax, have some perspective - I love you all.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0OHj3fqR6Q

  20. Steve K

    May 15 Melbourne, Australia
    Edited 2 weeks ago

    So, getting back to the issue I was talking about.

    What Mark Carlton was saying as in a "link" is a good idea and pretty much what i've already done.

    -image-

    It does seem messy, but those small orange question mark symbols are only shown when the Bigger ? symbol is selected - the bigger one top menu panel with "Help" underneath. This enables the user to select a smaller ? symbol next to the point of interest and immediately be shown details regarding it's meaning/use.

    That is the way I'm doing it. In a way they ARE hyperlinks. - there is no going back.

    The point of my question is how to, or if there is a point anyway, to make it simpler. If you were confronted with the image (software program) above - does it seem obvious to click on the small ? symbols if that will show you immediately what that particular area of the software is about.

    It makes sense to me - ie. click on the ? symbol and you will be shown everything about that area - simple?

    [EDIT] The problem I have is "describing" what it means and what has to be done - it's a fair amount of work to do.

    I guess in the end this is not a question that can be answered by anyone else. But do the ? symbols make sense?

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