A primer on user assistance for startups.
I think two design choices can help a user learn new software without requiring her to read “documents.” They are:
- Self-explanatory user interfaces.
- Video demonstrations.
I see many software interfaces that a few minor tweaks could make more self-explanatory. For example:
- Carefully written labels. They might have short primary text and longer secondary text, visually distinguished from primary.
- Tool tips that pop up.
- Visual organization that implies relationships between elements.
Of course, it can take more than tweaks to fix a user experience that doesn’t match the user’s intuition about the tasks.
And I believe most users will prefer to “get started” with a screencast video rather than text to read. Of course, keeping the video under 3 minutes will make it more likely to be viewed. Therefore most software would require a series of videos. Planning the content for the series will be non-trivial.
I don’t think well-assisted software can completely avoid documents (unless it’s small and single-purpose). There’s still a place for:
- Reference materials (as distinguished from tutorial materials).
- Glossaries (if the subject matter is technically complex).
How well have you been assisted to learn new software lately?