Usability Considerations: Help Files

In the previous post I discussed the importance of helping users get back on track after making mistakes through the use of carefully designed error messages. Aside from error messages though a good website design will take into consideration the importance (or non-importance) of a help page or help files. In certain instances, like blogs, a help page is not really necessary. After all navigation is really straightforward and there isn’t anything that really needs to be explained step-by-step. In other instances though a help page or a help file is very important so as to make it easy for users to know how to perform certain tasks. Some examples of websites that might need a help page or at least explanations on the same page include:

  • those with files/document to be downloaded - If the files/document to be downloaded needs special software to be viewed or opened (PDF files, compressed files, Flash, etc.) make sure that it is included as part of the download information. Include the link pointing to the page where they can download needed application to view the file/document.
  • those with applications to be downloaded and installed - Make sure you have a link pointing to step-by-step instructions on how to install the application you have made available for download. The help page can be written by you or can be a standard help page. If the application can be installed using different operating systems make sure you have instructions for each OS.

to be continued…

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