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A method of tailoring help pages to levels of user expertise

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000199541D
Publication Date: 2010-Sep-08
Document File: 2 page(s) / 50K

Publishing Venue

The IP.com Prior Art Database

Abstract

A method is disclosed which determines the appropriate expertise level of a user for the displaying of help pages. The program monitors the user's actions and keeps track of statistical data about the usage of the program. For each of the functions and tasks available in the program, multiple help pages are maintained, tailored to a variety of levels of expertise. When a user accesses the help page for a particular function, the program consults its usage statistics. These are used to draw conclusions about the user's level of expertise for that function. The program then chooses the most appropriate help page to display.

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A method of tailoring help pages to levels of user expertise

Documentation is a common component of all software. With larger scale software, documentation can appear in a variety of ways: information tooltips or flyouts, popup dialogs, sidebars, hyperlinks to online infocenters, to name a few.

    A problem that is not easily addressed is that of documentation having to be suitable to users of all skill levels. Technical writers must strike a balance in providing an appropriately basic overview of a topic, accessible to all, without going into so much depth as to confuse less skillful users. Further, some methods of displaying help to the user may place restrictions on what can be displayed (in terms of screen real estate available).

    The method described here is an extension to existing help systems in software today. It is a way of utilising information about a program's usage, in order to accurately select from multiple help pages. The method requires the integration of a statistic-tracking component into the program, as well as modifications to the existing help pages and text for the program and modifications to the existing help-fetching component of the program.

    Consider the help page for a single function, task, or any other part of the program that may reasonably be documented in a single help page. Let us refer to this as a topic for which there could be a help page or in-line help text.

    The program expands upon existing documentation by splitting or marking-up help pages into a set of pages. This is done manually by a technical writer or equivalent. An arbitrary number of expertise levels is chosen, and information in the original help page is dispersed into only the levels that are appropriate. For example, 3 expertise levels could be chosen, corresponding to 'basic', 'intermediate', and 'advanced' levels. A high-level overview of the topic would only need to be present in the basic help page; a technical, low-level description of the topic would only need to be present in the advanced help page.

    A statistic-tracking component is incorporated into the program. This component hooks in at specified places, to keep track of some particular metric. An example of this would be that every time a user clicks a button on the user interface, the component increments a counter for that button.

Examples of statistics that can be tracked...