A well designed document assembly system NEEDS NO HELP text. Each prompt is group logically and clear. It states its purpose and can be understood by users. Why would anyone ever need help text?
Because it is not so simple. In building systems, a polished dialog is a balance between information and data entry in an environment where space is limited. The term “limited real estate” means the amount of information that can be seen in a standard window WITHOUT scrolling. That is the real estate you are dealing with, because more often than not, the user will forget to Scroll before proceeding to the next dialog.
Now why do I care?
I care because I want all my questions answered so that the assembled document will be complete. To this end, I use headers and short prompts to fit as much relevant information in a single window.
What about the help text?
The help text is optional. The first time you run a template assembly with HotDocs or GhostFill or Dealbuilder, you want all the help in the world, until you figure out what the author of the system means. However, on the second, third and fourth time, you get it … and now that detailed on screen prompt is weighing you don.
The solution – tiered help systems
Our approach is a tiered help system.
- Careful naming of prompts, headers and dialog titles
- optional on-screen help
- drafting tips that spawn dialogs
- buttons that launch web pages
- integrated resource help
This approach lets you get the help you need, when you need it, but otherwise doesn’t clutter up the real estate.