If you have read my article, What IS it that you do?, then you might already know that one of my passions is helping my customers. One of the ways that I do this is by writing embedded help.
Embedded help is user assistance that is integrated into the user interface so that users can get the help they need without interrupting their workflow.
In this article, I will describe four types of embedded help that I write.
On screen help is text that remains on the user interface at all times. Use this type of help to describe the type of information that a user can enter in a field, as shown in the example below.
Another way that you can describe the type of information that a user can enter in a field is to write the instructions directly in the field.
You can also use on screen help to describe an area of the screen, or to describe one or more fields, as PayPal does.
Tooltip help is shown when a user hovers their cursor over an object. Use this type of help to describe the function of the object. For example, Goodreads.com uses a tooltip, below.
Icon help is shown when the user clicks an icon such as a question mark. Use this type of help to clarify the use of the field or provide information about the values to be entered. In the example below, a user can click the icon get more details about the field.
Panel help is shown when a user clicks a Help link on the screen. This type of help offers more extensive information about the screen or an area of the screen, such as workflow or task information. For example, you can describe how to perform a complex task.
So, there you have it – On Screen, Tooltip, Icon, and Panel help. These are the four main types of embedded help that I write.
The output seems so simple! But, rest assured, there is a lot of work that goes into this. I start work on this as early as possible, often when the prototypes are being built, and finish only after the help has been tested in the software and is working as expected.
Do you write embedded help? Tell me about it!
Originally published March 30, 2017