There’s been quite a few blog posts recently by a variety of bloggers and companies about the current state of User Assistance (such as online Help) and possible ways it could be improved. We thought it might be useful to provide a summary of all the different ideas floating around.
- If there are other people who should be mentioned, do let me know.
- If I have summarised someone incorrectly, do let me know and we will amend this post.
- These comments primarily relate to User Assistance for technology products. User documentation where safety, legal and compliance regulations are important (such as in aerospace) are likely to follow a different path.
OK, let’s go!
Mark said we’ll need to add more information to topics that puts a task into context, because, for users, the page they land on is their Home page. If they search via Google and land on your content, they are unlikely to be starting to read from the official Home page. Mark also said most people are applying minimalism incorrectly, as it recommends we write topics that include this type of information.
Ray said we’ll need to add more information to topics that puts a task into context, because systems are becoming much more complex and multi-purpose.
Ellis at Cherryleaf said we’ll need to add more information to topics that puts a task into context, because systems are becoming simpler and more intuitive to use, and users are wanting to master them (rather than be just functionally competent).
Tom said we’ll need to offer new navigation paths to pages, to suit the differing needs of users.
Mark said we’ll need to offer new navigation paths to pages, because users are focused on solving their individual problem and contextual situation.
Everyone said structured content is the only way to manage large amounts of complex information, particularly if it needs to be translated.
Tom said structuring should be at topic level, if you want to use tools that give you high quality output.
Ray, Ellis and Mark said that technical content will need to include some “selling” content, as it will often be the starting point on a prospect’s journey to becoming a customer.
Everyone agrees the use of video in User Assistance will grow.
Ellis not certain if this work will be done by someone with the job title of Technical Author.
Tom said structured content (e.g. Dita standard) results in sub-optimal Web content, and we should look for alternative ways to write content.
Sarah said structured content gives us the flexibility needed to create Web content that is dynamic and useful to the user.
Ellis, Tom and Tony agree that content will rolled out and and continuously updated, rather than published in a single release and updated only when there is a new product version released.
Everyone agrees users will first go to Google to search for the answers to their problems.
Everyone agrees User Assistance will need to become a more personalised experience for the user.
Everyone agrees we’ll need to be able to deliver our content to lots of different media: mobile, Web, paper, PDF, Help, inside the application, and so on.
What do you think?
Do you agree with these thoughts?
Has anything been left out?
Have I summarised everyone correctly?
Please use the comment box below.