The paradox of the guided user: assistance can be counter-effective

Christof van Nimwegen’s PhD dissertation, “The paradox of the guided user: assistance can be counter-effective“, concerns how software affects brain processes. According to news reports (I’ve not read it yet), he claims a great deal of software turns us into passive beings, subjected to the whims of computers, randomly clicking on icons and menu options…. Read more »

User Assistance – You’ve come a long way baby?

The MgmtSIG digest pointed me towards the Bitsavers’ Software Archive (, which stores documentation and software for minicomputers and mainframes from the 1950s -1980s. It shows how far user assistance has come, particularly in terms of graphic design. However, there are still areas where we could learn from the past. The digest referenced MiTTS (Minimalist… Read more »

How can we make online Help as natural as breathing?

One of the themes of every Help related conference is that some users are reluctant to use Help. Help, as a word, implies failure and, it is said, Microsoft spent a lot of time trying unsuccessfully to come up with a better word to use. Recently, I was pointed towards a presentation by Professor Dan… Read more »

UA Conference Notes

Last week, we attended, exhibited and spoke at the UA conference Europe 08. It was probably the best conference I’ve attended. 1. There were some excellent case studies from Sonia Fuga of Northgate, Rachel Potts and Brian Harris of Red-Gate Software and Matthew Ellison (concerning IBM). Northgate’s approach of using WordPress for ratings and commenting… Read more »

Augmented reality gets closer

Earlier in the year we blogged on Nokia’s plans for augmented reality and how it could be used for user assistance. Developments are moving apace, as can been seen by this demonstration from Japan: