What is User Assistance? It’s a lot more than the Help Desk

User AssistanceUser assistance is simply something that helps users of your product or service. User assistance takes many forms. Deciding what form(s) of user assistance to create and where to publish it depends upon factors including audience, purpose, and context. Below are some examples of the types or forms of user assistance that you can produce.



Forms of User of Assistance

  • Labels, tags, stickers, warnings, symbols, inserts, etc.
  • Hard copy user guide, manual, quick start guide, Quick Reference Guide (QRG)
  • Soft copy online help, Intranet, support site, wiki
  • Release notes
  • Instructor Led Training (ILT)
  • Virtual Instructor Led Training (vILT)
  • eLearning curriculum, course, class, event, game
  • Video (not to be confused with thinly-veiled marketing materials)
  • Simulation (show me, let me try, test me)
  • Live help desk support
  • Software setup wizards
  • Social sites, moderated forums, social user assistance manager, ticket system
  • Onsite support
  • Coaching, mentoring
  • Therapy

What Mix Lord Banquo*?

Every product and service is different and therefore the mix of user assistance items that you produce and maintain is different. Prior to launching or implementing your product or service, you’ll know some of the items you’ll have to produce. However, some you will learn by experience. You’ll collect metrics of problems that users face, how they contact you, and where they expect to find help, etc. From this data, you can alter the mix of user assistance, or further develop some of what you produce.

Self Help versus Live Help

In general, live help is relatively more expensive compared to self help systems. Steering users to self help versus live help can reduce costs.

Where is the Help?

It should be exactly were your users expect it to be. When you field-tested your product or service, you probably identified areas where users might have questions or have to make decisions. This data will help you determine what types of user assistance to create, and where to place it. Have you noticed that a lot of products have toll-free telephone numbers on them. Is a live help desk the best answer for your product of service?

* Why a Shakespeare¬†reference you ask? Stick with me here as I explain… Lord Banquo (your technical communicator¬†and¬†user assistance creator sidekick) was Macbeth’s (your noble product or service) ally when Macbeth faced the three witches (your customers and critics). Banquo provided calm council during this difficulty, much the same way that having expertly crafted user assistance and a user assistance plan will give you confidence. Nice huh?