I recently attended the live webinar Trends in Mobile Software User Assistance by Joe Welinske. It was a very interesting presentation, and I really appreciate Joe taking the time to speak to those who registered.
I haven’t written specifically for a mobile user interface, so in addition to learning about a new documentation delivery trend, I was also interested in the topic as a consumer.
Here are points that Joe highlighted:
Small Screens Means More Integrated Help, Visual Cues and Icons
There’s a very small amount of visual real estate on the mobile screen. This means that traditional documentation formatting is often abandoned for transparent overlays or highlights. In fact, two of the latest apps I downloaded (Alien Blue for Reddit and Duolingo) didn’t even have a help system at all. After some navigating around, I didn’t find any help pages either. Instead, both apps used icons and menu headings to inform the user on where to go.
This is not uncommon for mobile interfaces. Joe indicated that fitting traditional help documents into a small screen is not a wise choice, given that people consume information in a wildly different way on their phones. However, single sourcing content but exporting for print, web, and phones makes sense without too many more steps.
First Impressions Are Important
App users need the most help on the first couple interactions with the device. Once they get the hang of the program, there won’t be much need for additional assistance, unless new or vastly updated features are introduced. Sometimes, a company will communicate these changes, with user help, via other forms of social media or some type of pop up window.
So, as the first interaction is key to a user understanding how to use the system, some companies are taking the extra step of using guided help or a getting started tutorial. This may take the form of several pages of explaining how to complete common tasks. Another common device is the use of transparent overlays or arrows directing users to where they want to go. I’ve come across this type of help in apps that have complicated or multi-step processes, such as Stellar.
Missed the Webinar? You’re in Luck!
If you would like to request a recording of the webinar, please fill out the contact form on Joe Welinske’s website and include the name of the webinar, Trends in Mobile Software User Assistance, and that you are part of the STC San Francisco Chapter community in the comments box.