Reading Usable Help
@UsableHelp on Twitter
Gordon R. Meyer
Quick! Help sucks or rocks?
In Web Users Judge Sites in the Blink of an Eye, it's said that web readers judge the quality of a site in only 50 milliseconds. (Approximately the length of a single frame of TV video, by the way.) These snap first impressions, a study found, echo and permeate the reader's judgement of the entire site, if they stick around instead of immediately clicking away.
Although casual browsing of a web site and using onscreen Help are tasks with different motivations, a similar tolerance level and judgement mindset might apply to both realms. At the very least, it's the same group of people, and their online habits could easily carry over to other activities. When your customers access your Help, do they get the impression that the documentation is easy to scan and read, or are they overwhelmed with small type, too many clickable items, and lengthy passages that make every task seem like "work?" If it all seems too daunting, they might give up, or turn to other sources, thereby devaluing your documentation, regardless of how hard you worked on it.