The Persistent Problem with Help: Users', Developers, and Technical Support Providers' Perspectives
|Author:||Melody Y. Ivory The Information School, University of Washington|
|Date:||February 17, 2005|
Help systems play an important role in facilitating technology use; however, users continue to report that they are ineffective. The presentation will describe a study conducted within three populations which have a stake in the user assistance process: users, developers (anyone who plays a role in creating the interface, content, or functionality), and technical support providers. Findings suggest that: (1) many users experience some difficulty with using user assistance; (2) users solve their computer problems most frequently with web-based content; (3) developers' perceptions of users lead them to develop less popular forms of user assistance and for tasks with which users have fewer problems; and (4) technical support providers address this gap by supporting users on tasks for which user assistance is missing or inadequate and by developing supplemental resources to help users. Based on study findings, I propose the development of a specialized help portal system. The system would harvest help content from various sources, organize intelligently the content, and enable users to search or browse for help on specific problems.
Melody Y. Ivory is an Assistant Professor in the Information School as well as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. Dr. Ivory received a BS in computer science and mathematics from Purdue University and received MS and PhD degrees in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley. Her primary research and teaching interests are in human-computer interaction and data mining. She is the founder of the Universal Benefit from Information Technology Research Program at UW (see ubit.ischool.washington.edu). Her research program aims to increase peoples' benefit from information technology in all areas of their lives, regardless of their abilities, backgrounds, or experiences. Dr. Ivory is recognized as an expert on automated web site evaluation and has published numerous papers and a book, Automated Web Site Evaluation: Researchers' and Practitioners' Perspectives (Human- Computer Interaction Series, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003), on the topic.