A system for contextual tutorials and guided assistance.
Original Publication Date: 2008-Feb-22
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2008-Feb-22
Providing tutorials or guided assistance has been a very popular user assistance mechanism used within the software and hardware industry. One of the main limitations of most tutorials or guided assistance is that it requires the user to read or watch a demonstration outside of the context of the interface or GUI and then perform the actions required. So, the user is either forced to 1) remember all that they have seen and mimic it once back in the context of the interface or 2) bounce back and forth between the tutorial and the interface. Both of these approaches are inefficient at best. While tool tips help solve the problem to a certain degree. They are often limited in description and scope. This invention seeks to solve this problem by integrating the tutorial or guided assistance directly in context so the user can access a robust description or rich media demonstration for the information where and when they need it.
A system for contextual tutorials and guided assistance .
As a core part of this invention, an application will have a mode that can be turned on or off by the user during their interaction with the interface. This mode will be referred to as the 'assistance mode' for the purposes of this disclosure. The assistance mode is identical to the applications normal mode with the exception that it provides visual cues and in context demonstrations that assist the user directly within the context of the task they are performing.
The invention combines guided process for user assistance with the ability to access help and demonstrations directly in the context of the task at hand. Similar to a guide or wizard, when the 'assistance mode' is enabled, the UI will present a recommended series of steps that are represented by visual cues directly within the context of the user's work environment. In addition to identifying a recommended order of task completion, each step or visual cue also provides access to more detailed user assistance related to each individual step. Examples of this type of user assistance can range from descriptive text or directions to visual demonstrations to audio. While this information is 100% contextual to the step in question, since the user is working directly within the user interface, all other forms of help/user assistance are still available.
Key Advantages over known solutions
1) Allows the user to continue to follow a step by step process directly in the context of the work area. The user is not necessarily locked into following a rigid step by step process nor is the process modal. Additionally, the user is not required to follow a predefined order and can always access and work with all other parts of the interface while a particular feature is enabled in the "assistance" mode.
2) The steps are displayed using visual cues in the exact context the user must perform the work. This eliminates the need to have to bounce back and forth between the guided steps and the interface.
3) Provides a mechanism to present explanations or demonstrations (similar to a visual tutorial) in context and directly within the interface. This content could be anything from text to rich media, such as audio or video.
4) Allows the user to utilize this mode for one or multiple tasks simultaneously.
How the invention works within the user interface
The following four figures outline the major concepts for how the invention works. While they are manifested in a visual design or paper prototype to help explain the idea, they should be interpreted only as concepts rather than implementation specific requirements.
Key to the screens below:
Figure A: The user would activate the task or context for which they would like to enable the 'assistance mode'. In this example, activation is do...