Usability Heuristic 10 Help & Documentation

The tenth principle of Jacob Nielson’s 10 useability heuristics, concerns, help and documentation. Now, while we as designers strive to make products and services as intuitive to use as possible, sometimes users will need help as interfaces are growing increasingly complex. For example, just think how many different gestures could be used in a single mobile application. While help pages are still helpful, help and documentation can come in many different forms, such as app onboarding pages, walkthrough tool tips, popovers videos, chat box web chat and so on when applying this principle. Consider the following. Is it easy to search for help? Is the documentation focused on the easier task? Does the HELP documentation list concrete steps to be carried out? Let’s look at some examples. Top Dotcom, a clothing rental company, has a help center where users can search their query as a question and suggested eFax populate underneath. The search results are easy to scan, as they phrase, is a question which helps users understand easily whether any of the suggested results would be helpful to them. Wayfair, an online home good site, also has a help center. But you’ll notice its search feature isn’t as easy to use because there’s a 30 character limit on the search field. Also, the alter suggested results are just pages I use. Will have to click on one of these to understand whether the query is answered with within, and that’s increasing the interaction cost for the user help. Documentation should be focused on the user’s task. The great way to do this is to make help contextual i.e. is provided as the user performs the task. Skyscanner provides contextual help in the form of a popover when the user clicks on the destination failed. Skyscanner shows the user an option for search searching by all destinations. This help is timely and focused on the easiest task. Lastly, any help? Documentation should list concrete steps the user should perform. Asana does a nice job of interspersing screenshots on the help pages with visually prominent steps for the user to follow. No user likes having to read documentation, so where possible, provide help in that timely way by thinking about when users might require help performing the tasks. When writing documentation ensure it’s easy to search, use analytics and insight from usability testing to ensure search performs in the way users expect. Lastly, ensure your documentation has scalable steps and don’t overload your users with unnecessary information.

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