Please join us on Monday, October 21 at 6:00 PM for our October meeting, to be held at:
1909 El Camino Real
Redwood City, CA 94063
Why Users Can’t Find Answers to Their Questions in Help Content
One of the main goals of help material is to help users find answers to their questions, but so often this doesn’t happen. Users foray into the help muttering under their breath only to leave it cursing vocally afterwards — because the help didn’t answer their question, or at least the user couldn’t find the answer. Why not? Why is it so hard to guide users to the right information when they need it?
I recently conducted a poll on my site — http://idratherbewriting.com — asking tech writers to rank the top reasons (from 20 listed) why users can’t find the information they’re looking for. After 130 voters, about 7 reasons trended to the top with the most votes:
- The answer isn’t in the help because the help only sticks with obvious information.
- The answer is an isolated task, but the user needs a more connected beginning-to-end workflow.
- The user searches for the answer, but the help’s poor SEO prevents the answer from surfacing.
- The help uses terms unfamiliar to the user (e.g., “gizmo” instead of “widget”).
- The help has been fragmented and dispersed over many small topics so the help is a maze.
- The help doesn’t provide concrete examples that make the concepts understandable.
- The answer is buried in a long page, but the user only spends 2 minutes max on a page scanning.
In this presentation, I’ll lead a discussion to analyze these reasons, explain why they pose the challenges they do, present potential solutions, and more. In so doing, I hope to address the root of why so many users feel disdain and apathy towards help material.
The Speaker: Tom Johnson is a technical writer at Badgeville, a gamification company in Redwood City, California. He has a well-known blog, http://idratherbewriting.com, where he writes about important issues in technical communication. He has been named by MindTouch as the most influential person in #techcomm three years in a row. Frequent topics he writes and speaks about include findability, visual communication, organization, search, screencasting, and more. Aside from technical writing, he loves basketball, bikes to work, and has four daughters.