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Online help: effects of content and writing style on user performance and attitudes

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2 Author(s)
Cherry, J.M. ; Fac. of Libr. & Inf. Sci., Toronto Univ., Ont., Canada ; Jackson, S.-R.

A study that compared the usability of two versions of online help for an Application System/400 (AS/400) product is described. The long-term goal was to develop empirically based guidelines for writing online help, particularly for application-enabling products. A portion of the online help text for one AS/400 product was revised. The revisions included changes in the content, writing style, and presentation of the text. The original version and the revised version of the help were compared in an interactive (online) task environment and in three hardcopy reviews. In the interactive environment, participants who used the revised version made 40% fewer requests and viewed 45% fewer help screens than those who used the original version. There was no significant difference in task performance (quality of work) between those who used the original and the revised versions of the help. The results of the hardcopy reviews showed that participants strongly preferred the revised version

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Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:32 ,  Issue: 4 )