Describe some of the different approaches
to providing user support systems, with examples.
answer available for tutors only
Command assistance - the user
requests help on a particular command and is presented
with a help screen or manual page describing it. This
is the approach used in the UNIX man help system and
the DOS help command.
Efficient only if the user knows what he wants to
know about, which is often not the case. Deals well
with commands which the user is aware of but uses
Command prompts - provide help when the user
encounters an error, usually in the form of correct
usage prompts. Useful if the error is a simple one,
such as incorrect syntax, but assumes some knowledge
of the command.
Context-sensitive help - range from those with
specific knowledge of the particular user to provision
of a simple help key or function that the system interprets
according to the context in which it is called. Often
used in menu-based systems to provide help on menu
options, e.g. Macintosh Balloons help or tooltips.
On-line tutorials - allow the user to work
through the basics of an application, progressing
at his own speed, experimenting with small examples,
and repeating parts of the tutorial if needed. Most
on-line tutorials know nothing about the user's experience
or the domain, so are inflexible and often unforgiving.
On-line documentation - parallels the paper
documentation and makes the material available continually
in the same medium as the user's work. Disadvantage
is that large manuals may be less appropriate on-line
than on paper. The large amount of information contained
in manual pages can create problems for the user by
'masking' the information they are seeking, so on-line
documentation is often used by more expert users as
a resource or reference.