Reading Usable Help
@UsableHelp on Twitter
Gordon R. Meyer
A flaw in the DNA of Help
According to the 2002 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, about 50% of the US adults studied demonstrate literacy skills at Type 1 or Type 2 levels. This means that respondents are, at best:
"[A]pt to experience considerable difficulty in performing tasks that required them to integrate or synthesize information from complex or lengthy texts or to perform quantitative tasks that involved two or more sequential operations and in which the individual had to set up the problem."
There's hardly a better description of onscreen Help -- complex and lengthy texts, more than two sequential operations, and requiring the reader to set up the problem. Is any wonder that many adults avoid using it?. Although many authors strive for simplicity in language, the basic DNA of documentation -- reliance on text and ordered steps -- might be inherently difficult for the majority of the population. These readers may, in fact, find using Help to be harder than just suffering through the more guided, and less text-heavy, application interface.