User Assistance: Prevention or cure?

In 2011, will we see a trend towards preventing users getting stuck, rather than curing them after they’ve got stuck?

User Interface design is preventative. Support is curative. User documentation is, in most cases, curative.

With new technologies for assisting users emerging, Technical Authors may have the opportunity to provide assistance before users get stuck. However, would they and their organisation be comfortable with this change? It is said that, in medicine, it’s more difficult to get funding for preventative measures than for curative medicines, even though the former can be significantly cheaper. Will this also be the case with User Assistance?

One way to tell if an organisation would be receptive to this idea is to assess the value it places on usability, compared to supporting users. Once again, it’s important to develop meaningful measures for the value and effect of Users Assistance. If it can be shown that greater value and significant savings can be made, by using this approach, then any decision may become more straightforward.

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