ifacethoughts

Make It More Usable – Help

Yes, I consider Help to be part of usability. Not because it is one of the core elements of usability, but because it can be a one-point stop for your users (visitors, readers) to know about your website, to know about the usability features that your website has. Lorelle’s Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful. is an excellent guide to think about your website design from a usability point of view.

In spite of this, sometimes, somethings are not very obvious, or somethings are not easily visible. There can be multiple reasons for it – technical reasons, lesser control over the theme (like in case of WordPress.com blogs today). Or sometimes one usability aspect itself can pose itself against another, forcing you to choose a balance. How do you communicate this to your user? How do you explain the theme and concept of your website?

Help

The answer is Help! Provide help to your user. The best form is, ofcourse, online help. But sometimes you might have to provide hard copies of manuals, presentations, demonstrations or training. They are all forms of help, that makes your reader more comfortable with your site.

Help tells the user what to expect from the website, and minimizes the unknown.

As with any other new thing, a new visitor of your website might feel a little alien to it. He/She can take up some time to learn a few things, see what features are available, understand behaviour of your website. This is because he/she does not know what to expect. The learning happens through discovery or experience which can either be the hard way or time consuming. The learning becomes even more important if there is more than reading on the website – like e-commerce or interactivity.

Help is documentation done for the user (visitor, reader, administrator), from his/her perspective to enable better usage of the software.

This Site

I got feedback from some readers who asked questions which I had thought were already answered. Most common was reading posts only of their interest. Some of them were new to a blog, so they were not aware of RSS feeds or categories of posts. This is when I realised that I should provide this information explicitly on the blog itself. I have done this earlier for other projects, why not for this? And so came up the Help & Sitemap page. It is not very exhaustive, but its a start.

To highlight some of my posts, I have used the Link Categories.

  • There is a category called Adhesive, which contains posts that I want to make sticky. It is not called sticky because it would then be pushed down as the link categories are displayed in alphabetical order. Adhesive makes sure it comes on top of all the links.
  • The most read posts are showin in a category called Best Yet. Again, it could have been called “Popular Posts” or “Top Posts” but the alphabetical order plays its role in the display.
  • I have tried to separate the full site feeds and partial feeds, so that the readers realise that both are available.

I have tried to document all this in the Help & Sitemap page. It also contains a sitemap, not truly a sitemap, but different ways of navigation, in one place.

For WordPress.com

It makes more sense if your site is on shared hosting, like WordPress.com. You don’t have control over the entire theme. The visual aspect of your website that your readers see is controlled by the theme, each having its own widgets and features. Is it not important to let your readers know about it?

This is also profitable for you as website/blog owners – more comfortable your users get, more of your website will be read.

Related Posts

Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

Discussion [Participate or Link]

  1. Lorelle VanFossen said:

    Really good points. And what is so amazing is that you did this with a WordPress.com blog, not a full version blog. With a little creative thinking, even a blog you have little or no control over can be made to be usable – if you just THINK about “usability” means. And you have done that! Wonderful! Excellent example. Thank you!

  2. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Thanks Lorelle, so many elements contribute to usability – content, layout, styles, that we have a good chance of optimising it.

  3. Lorelle on WordPress » Creative Usability with Wordpress.com Blogs said:

    [...] Taking a few notes from a recent article I wrote on Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful., Abhijit Nadgouda @ iface decided to take his WordPress.com blog, a blog with no control over the look of the WordPress Theme or any core programming files, WordPress Plugins, or templates, and put into practice what he is learning about usability. As with any other new thing, a new visitor of your website might feel a little alien to it. He/She can take up some time to learn a few things, see what features are available, understand behaviour of your website. This is because he/she does not know what to expect. The learning happens through discovery or experience which can either be the hard way or time consuming. The learning becomes even more important if there is more than reading on the website – like e-commerce or interactivity…This is also profitable for you as website/blog owners – more comfortable your users get, more of your website will be read. [...]

  4. Abhijit Nadgouda @ iface » Blog Archive » Open Source Usability said:

    [...] Make It More Usable – Help [...]

  5. suneet suthan said:

    Do you have information on usability issues related with “quick links” ? Need to know how they are helpful and usable to a user. Novice users may not know what’s inside a quick link. Expert may understand the structure of the site. How is it making navigation simple or hard?

  6. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Hi Suneet,

    The advantage of quick links is that the user can access them without requiring to understand structure of the site.

  7. iface thoughts » Blog Archive » Help said:

    [...] Help has been one of my favourite topics. Roger Johansson talks about Don’t Provide an Accessibility Statement by Peter Krantz. Overlooking the exaggeration, the article stresses on providing help to the user instead of a technical accessibility statement. Accessibility is for the user. It can get across quicker if it is explained as help instead of a standard. Accessibility is still technical jargon! I had to create a help page for this blog because one of my readers was not versed with weblogs and feeds. However it is just the start, not complete yet. [...]

  8. Where Is The Link Manager? | iface thoughts said:

    [...] irritating, I had got quite comfortable with the Link Manager interface. The Link Manager was my way of displaying links in a certain order, in certain groups. They are all [...]

  9. I Love The Text Widget | iface thoughts said:

    [...] I love it! A while back I had written about some tips to use the Link Categories to group the links and order them in the sidebar. The biggest problem [...]

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Abhijit Nadgouda
iface Consulting
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