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help is for experts

November 29, 2005

More good stuff by Jensen Harris:

"How can this be? I think my biased assumption was that experts know how to use the software already and eager novices would be poring over the documentation trying to learn how to be more effective using it.

Yet, in usability tests we see it again and again: novices and intermediates click around and experiment, experts try to reason things out and look them up in help."

This is a big reason why I didn't build "integrated" help into HelpSpot. It's basically a waste of time. You're much better of focusing on making your app simpler to use and have an online manual for the power users, administrators, etc.

It's also why HelpSpot has several somewhat hidden features. There's things in there which are hidden in plain sight like reminders. It's a cool feature to be able to setup reminders about a request, but making it too prominent would distract from the learning of the base functionality. It's OK if users discover that feature 6 months into using HelpSpot, in fact it will be better because they'll grasp the power of it more than if it was something they tried to fiddle with on day one.

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