Web-based user assistance

Webinar Planning and Scripting from Technical Writer in Greenwich, CT

Posted by | freelance technical writer, Online Help Writer, Software User Assistance, technical documentation in Greenwich CT, technical writing, Web-based user assistance, webinar planning and scripting, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

By now we’ve all heard of web conferencing, that ubiquitous service that allows conferencing events to be shared with remote locations over the Internet. The modern term for this service is Webinar, and they have become both popular and quite useful for customers of all kinds of companies.

Webinars are often presented as a combination of software demonstration and PowerPoint presentations, and frequently provide some form of take-away document at the end. The take-away document can be the actual PowerPoint presentation, which can be problematic if the presentation is too wordy, too vague, or doesn’t have enough meaningful images; or an additional document specifically designed for this purpose. One of the most popular webinar services is Webex, which is a proprietary service from Cisco.

Some web conferencing solutions require that additional software be installed by the presenter and participants. Some web conferencing vendors provide a complete solution while others just enhance existing technologies. Participants can be individuals or a group. The best webinar systems allow individuals to interact with the presenter by means of a chat panel, in which the attendees can ask questions that are seen live by the presenter. Many webinar vendors provide either a recorded copy of an event, or a means for a subscriber to record an event. In my experience, the majority of people who register for a webinar end up not attending but going back later and watching or downloading the recording of the event. So the ability to record webinars is very important.

Of course the most important aspect of a webinar is the actual presentation. Is it focused on a single piece of software or logical group of software functions? Is there a demonstration of the software? If there are slides to present, are they useful and capture the attention of the attendees?

Webinars can be a very cool way to impart important information to your customers about what your product does, how it works, and how to use it. Shorter webinars are usually more effective than longer webinars because quite honestly, most people are busy, multi-tasking, or simply lose focus after too much time. Of courser, a good writer can provide webinar planning and scripting, and some, this author included, can even do justice to the presentation.

Web-based user assistance – technical writing in Greenwich CT

Posted by | freelance technical writer, Online Help Writer, Software User Assistance, technical writing, Web-based user assistance, writing services in Greenwich CT | No Comments

These days, user assistance comes in many forms. We still produce traditional sources of assistance for our customers in the form of sequentially organized printable user manuals and online help systems. But web-based assistance – that is, content that is viewed in a web browser – has become more and more common, and not just for web-based applications.

Go to any website that sells any product. Many will feature “online help” that appears directly on the web page when a customer clicks a link or a menu command. This kind of web-based help is often quite effective when displayed in its own panel or other type of container directly on the page. A single click gives the user access to the correct information exactly when he or she needs it, rather than forcing the user to go dig around in some 500-page PDF manual or click around in an external help system. And we’re all familiar with the ubiquitous Frequently Asked Questions pages at our favorite online shopping hangout.

Then there are web-based software applications, which often provide different kinds of user assistance. While an external help system remains a traditional solution to user assistance for web-based apps, including in-depth procedural and conceptual information, this type of system does have some drawbacks. For example, it sits outside of the application itself and a user must take multiple steps to find the right information, removing their focus from the task at hand in the application. Testing consistently finds that most users do not use the help system at all after failing once to find relevant information.

The best way to provide user assistance for web-based application is to embed the information directly in the application user interface. Finding answers to questions in embedded user assistance takes almost no effort – the information is usually right there on the screen, or appears directly on the screen with a single, obvious click. Again, testing consistently finds that users are more likely to use embedded help than an external help system.

The lesson here? Web-used user assistance is preferable to external help systems, or at the very least, should be the first line of defense for a confused user.