Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Bad Help

I just encountered the worst Help file I've ever seen, and that includes student projects from my days teaching Online Documentation at Southern Poly.

The content pane and the pane for displaying the TOC, Index, and Find (Find? as in can you say WinHelp.exe?) are two separate panes, and the TOC pane is modal!

Click to see enlarged version.

Not only that, but the Help is written at the microtask level--no insight as to how do I use this product to do something useful.

OK, so maybe this is some restaurant management software or some other application written by someone with no concept of user experience.

NO! This is a product designed and distributed by a company in the usability business--one whose product is meant to help you design usable software.

In all fairness, the product is way cool and works pretty well, but why do usability companies get all the way down to the user assistance level and then suddenly get usability stupid?


Larry said...

I can imagine the conversations that must've taken place in the developers' meetings....

"This product will be so intuitive and easy to use, we don't need to schedule any time or budget any money for developing help."

(Months pass. Now the ship date is looming.)

"Oops. This thing isn't as intuitive as we thought. Our beta testers are flummoxed. We need to add some help. Hey, everyone: You're all working this weekend. Pizza's on us."

bozoette said...

I thought maybe it some sort of divine system, what with the "Creating a User" topic. Wow.

MattBNH said...

I suppose I am just stating the obvious, but from a vast distance, what troubles me in the topic displayed was the promise of information about 2 activities in the topic title, but only a single link to one of those activities on the page. 'Editing a User' is nowhere to be found!

Even worse, making that link (or drop-down?) the only thing on the page creates a topic that is devoid of information and a useless click for the user.

I hope this topic is not representative, but I fear Mike chose it because it was.

I have seen worse (every click causes a javascript error, pop-ups with text that goes off the right edge, and no scroll bar) but this qualifies as bad.

martyparty said...

I marvel at the useless content: "User Information is accessed in the User Information Window." Really? Who'da thunk. And it's a separate window from your other windows. Wow, what use is that tidbit? It's almost as if this was placeholder content that slipped by uncorrected. Is it better than nothing? I think not.