Reading Usable Help
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Gordon R. Meyer
TiVo's got a trick for you
A pleasant surprise from my TiVo digital video recorder last night. It automatically recorded some new "tips and tricks" for me to view. Previously, this special reserved space on the recorder has been used for advertising or promotions. This is the first time I've seen it used for Help.
They did a nice job. About five tips, each presented in about a minute of video. Each was presented in first-person perspective -- a pleasant spokeswoman speaking directly to the camera. Occasionally, the camera would cut away to the TiVo screens showing an animation of the actions being described.
Being able to see the person speaking, instead of just voice over, gives the whole things a personal "let me show you" feel, and imbues it with some personality. Where video examples were shown, they were either "real world" (such as scheduling the recording of "Will & Grace") or showed scenes from inside the TiVo headquarters (such as the technical support area). Both of these attributes lend credibility and authenticity to the instructions.
One of the nice features was automatically provided by the TiVo interface -- an exact display of total running time. Seeing that each tip was only a minute long encouraged me to view them. Had they been long "lectures" I would have been less inclined to view them all of them, or any of them beyond the first one. It turns out I already knew most of the tidbits, but because they were short and well-produced, it was still a worthwhile experience. The info presented is already in the manual or the built-in Help screens, but the appeal of "tips and tricks" lends some appeal as well.
TiVo Corp has the ability to determine how many customers viewed these pieces, it will be interesting to see if they follow-up with more.