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David Lee King

Help?



Do you have a help page? On the main page of your website or your catalog?

Have you made it prominent?

And if so … Why?

If you have to have a help section … on the main page of your website … you’re doing something wrong.

Instead of making a help page, or an FAQ, or a list of frequently visited pages … why not just redesign and fix those things so people can find them without needing Help or FAQs??

Usually, the reason you are adding that help page is because lots of people are having problems that information on your website. The reason you’re adding that list of quick links is because people have been looking for those pages, but they can’t find them. Your FAQ? Most likely explaining something that doesn’t make sense to your customers.

Focus on fixing, not on bandaids. Harder to do? Yep. Takes more time? Probably so. But if you fix the underlying root problems, then when it’s time for a major redesign, much of your work will already be done. You’ll have a strong underlying structure in place, and your navigation will work great. And your explanations of how to do things will be simple enough and customer-focused enough that they’ll make sense to the average user.

And you won’t need a Help page.

Image by Dimitri N.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jennifer Koerber

    All true, David, but sometimes those FAQs are for the vendor sites we use – downloadable media, discovery layers, etc. – trying to add another layer of support beyond those vendor help pages. We don’t get to control/fix the issues our users have with those sites (much), so we do what we can.

    Relatedly, I’m planning on adding feature walkthroughs to give folks who need a little handholding for the more complex functionality of these sites. We’ve given our users some powerful tools, and not all of them are “push the button and see what happens” types who can figure them out on their own.

  • Jennifer Koerber

    All true, David, but sometimes those FAQs are for the vendor sites we use – downloadable media, discovery layers, etc. – trying to add another layer of support beyond those vendor help pages. We don’t get to control/fix the issues our users have with those sites (much), so we do what we can.

    Relatedly, I’m planning on adding feature walkthroughs to give folks who need a little handholding for the more complex functionality of these sites. We’ve given our users some powerful tools, and not all of them are “push the button and see what happens” types who can figure them out on their own.

  • http://twitter.com/aslaughter Anne Slaughter

    I agree with Jennifer–what we can control, we should make intuitive so tasks can be easily accomplished. But for the interfaces we can’t control, our best option (besides advocating to the vendor for better usability) is to provide great helping tools.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurasolomon Laura Solomon

    I have long said that, if you have to tell people how to use your website, the website is broken. Good post.

  • http://socsci.tau.ac.il/poli-LCE/ Josh Verienes

    I think that an help page could be for SEO (search engine optimization) reasons, as you add another keyword reach content page to your site. I think it both good for the readers and the search engine.

  • Liamhe

    I mostly agree with what you say. But I also agree with Jennifer. Additionally, my Library is part of a consortium so much of the structure of the patron interfaces to the Catalog, Overdrive etc. are beyond our control as well. Finally, there are people who like to read the manual before using something. A help or FAQ page does help them.

    We’ve created a help page for our databases as their help is inadequate. It usually ranks in the top ten pages visited for our site. Which reminds me, I have to update those pages.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Sure – that makes sense. I was thinking more about the stuff you are in control of. But yeah – for the ILS, discovery layers, databases, etc, you pretty much need those help guides.

    So agreed!