Browse Prior Art Database

User-Generated Contextual Help

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000106092D
Original Publication Date: 1993-Sep-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Mar-20
Document File: 4 page(s) / 142K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Related People

Pascoe, RA: AUTHOR

Abstract

Current Help messages are application specific, not specific to the task being accomplished by the user of the application.

This text was extracted from an ASCII text file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 37% of the total text.

User-Generated Contextual Help

      Current Help messages are application specific, not specific to
the task being accomplished by the user of the application.

      This invention provides a means for superseding the existing
contextual help message provided by the application with a message
provided by the end user.

      Current computer applications provide on-line help.  This
facility provides the application writer the ability to provide
helpful information concerning the use of the application to the end
user.  This information is accessed at the demand of the end user
through some action such as pressing a function key.  When confused
about the operation of the program, the end user may use this
facility to view the help information provided.  This may assist the
user to determine the next action to take without referring to the
manuals.  Online help has been limited to a general cursory overview
of the application or an index into more detailed information that
the user may choose to select.  Although the help function does
provide assistance to the end user, it still requires the end user to
actively access that bit of information required to continue.

      Contextual help provides the ability to tailor the information
provided to the end user based on the location in the application
when the user asks for help.  This is an improvement, as the
information provided is related to the function the user is
executing, rather than general help requiring further work by the
user to find specifics.

      Help information is created well before an application is
shipped, which requires the designer of the help information to
second guess the user's needs.  That is, the designer must anticipate
why the user may be requesting help.  In many cases, more than one
reason may be assumed for requesting help, which leads the help
information developer to create a list of helpful information.  The
user is, therefore, presented with more information than needed, and
the user must read through the list to determine which of the helps
applies to the situation at hand.

      These helps are also developed from the applications
perspective, not from the perspective of the task the end user is
performing.  As a result, the user must interpret the helps, and
match them with the current business need.  For example, the helps
for a spreadsheet are associated with the mechanics of the
spreadsheet operation rather than the current use for the spreadsheet
(accounts receivable, collage tuition calculation, etc.).  Help
messages provided in association with the current use ('Enter amount
of tuition', 'Calculate accounts receivable = F1') are more effective
than those associated with spreadsheet operation ('Enter data', 'F1 -
Recalculate').

      Therefore, even with the finer granularity provided by the
contextual nature of the help messages, the user must interpret the
information, sometimes reading through more i...