Dynamically Adjust Federated In-line Help Within Tasks
Original Publication Date: 2005-May-17
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-May-17
Help Systems have been around for years trying to aid users when using a software application. Unfortunately, they have been met with little success because they are always presented separately from the function being used. They are either presented in a different dialog, window, portlet, or web page. Oh, there have been attempts at merging the help and the function but with only marginal success because the dialog gets too "busy". Too much or too little information is provided, thereby making the merging useless. Additional problems have prevented widespread acceptance in that no one user wants the same amount of help. Related, the user assistance required by the user may not be shipped with the product. It may be on some user forum or in some article on the Internet. The user is forced to search multiple places for help on a particular task or topic separately from working with that task. The following describes a way to dynamically allow the user to view help for an area of interest that will show the help in-line, and will only show the amount of help desired by the user. Oh, and the help can originate from many different sources.
Dynamically Adjust Federated In -line Help Within Tasks
Our idea solves these problems by providing a slider or widget that the user can adjust to change how much in-line help is provided for an area of interest. The slider can be moved from "None", up through "Some", and finally to "A Lot". There are many steps in between where differing amounts of user assistance will be displayed. This is a smooth transition and, as the slider moves, the amount of help adjusts so the user can decide immediately how much information is good for him. In addition, the help that is displayed can be from many different sources. When the user interface (UI) appears, any text on the UI will be used as keywords for searching for related help. As the slider moves from "None" to "Some" to "A Lot", the displayed in-line help will range from nothing to help shipped with the application to links to IBM* articles to Business Partner tips, to relevant links anywhere in popular search engines. The farther the slider moves to "A Lot", the more search results are displayed from more disparate sources.
The slider could show up as a mouse-over control from the help widget. Clicking on the ? would bring up traditional help, but hover would bring up the slider and let the user affect the level of assistance. This could be on any help widget, or the whole UI. But remember it could be a single portlet or even a single control if there was field level help.
Since there could be different criteria of help that interest the user, other enhanced widgets can be used as more of a joystick to dynamically adjust multiple concepts. For example, if the user wanted different levels of help focusing on certain media types, locations, subject, level of detail, audience level, information type, he could use an enhanced widget to adjust multiple items at once. Concepts that can be dynamically adjusted include: - The number of media types shown (e.g., htm, XML, gif, jpg, flash, video clips, sound, etc). - Location refers where the information comes from (local hard drive, lan, internet, etc...