The ideal length for instructional screencast videos

Screencast videos have become a popular means for delivering “how-to” information. One of the questions developers must address is, how long should you make your screencasts? At last weeks’s tekom conference, I saw an interesting presentation by Melanie Huxhold and Dr Axel Luther of SAP on how they develop screencasts for SAP’s products (Produkt- und Lernvideos als ideale… Read more »

The over optimistic user

On Dara O’Brien’s Science Club (BBC 2) this week, neuroscientist Dr Tali Sharot explained “Optimism Bias”, suggesting that our brains may be hard-wired to look on the bright side. Here is her TED presentation on the Optimism Bias: Nearly everyone is optimistic they will never get divorced, and they are an above average driver, when… Read more »

Does looking at online Help make users forget?

Over the weekend, Dr Chris Atherton suggested I look at “the doorway effect”. You may well have experienced walking through a doorway and then finding you’d forgotten why you’d stood up in the first place. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have discovered your brain is not to blame for your confusion about what you’re doing in… Read more »

Measuring the value of Help in desktop applications

One of the challenges for Technical Authors is quantifying the value of what they produce. For example, how can you tell how many people are reading online Help when the software is installed on someone’s desktop computer? One application mentioned in passing as last week’s UAEurope conference, ApplicationMetrics, might be able to provide the answer. ApplicationMetrics… Read more »

Towards Flow-Based User Assistance

Flow theory is a psychological concept that is gaining interest in e-learning. It is a concept that should be also considered in the fields of User Assistance and Technical Communication. Flow is akin to sportsmen being “in the zone” – flow is the situation where people are happiest when they are completely engaged in a task. Online Help… Read more »