Quardev Monthly, January 2012

In this issue:

Welcome the January 2012 edition of the Quardev Monthly!

We look forward to another year of sharing insights and helpful information in the areas where we know a thing or two - testing, quality assurance, technical writing and documentation, project management, and consulting.

In this edition we have a feature article from Shelly Dillon, Does Your Mobile App Need User Assistance. Shelly discusses some of the options for providing help to your users in a Mobile world.

Enjoy the newsletter with our compliments and please contact us with questions, comments, or article ideas.

-The Quardev Crew!!

Does Your Mobile App Need User Assistance?

Shelly Dillon, Co-Founder and Manager, Technical Communications, Quardev, Inc.

Mobile apps are supposed to be "intuitive" and many are but for myriad reasons: good design, UI, and other cues that help users; it can be just as true for a small gaming application as a complex banking application.

Sometimes an intuitive UI minimizes the need to explain all the clicks and taps in an application, but how does a user learn about all the features and abilities of a given app? Are there ways that User Assistance (UA) can expressly make your app better? Encouraging the user base to keep your app and delete the others and making sure you stand out?

The answer is a resounding Of Course! Users, no matter how technically savvy, are diverse and at some point in an interaction with your app may need some assistance, particularly with more complex, enterprise-level apps.

Consider the following types of help you can offer your users:

First-time Users - Given that the majority of apps are intentionally designed to be intuitive and easy to use but with varying numbers of features, the first few interactions with an app defines whether a user continues to use it or discards it all together, particularly in the free to .99 category.

One of the simplest ways to keep your audience is Launch help - a section of built in user assistance that is displayed on the first use but then disappears to the background. There are a number of elegant examples of this type of help - a few of my favorites (all for iPhone): Bamboo Paper, Weightbot, and Lemon - each has tutorial text/information on the start screen that gets the user oriented and right to work/play.

Guided Help - User assistance interwoven in the user interface. This type of assistance leads the user through a task without having to leave the task itself. This help is often successful because the closer the help to the user interaction the more likely it is that it will be used.

A great example is Google Search. In the app you can click on a question mark (top left corner of the home page), which switches the app to Help mode. An overlay appears with question mark icons over all active UI Elements. Tapping on an icon opens a short Help phrase to explain the UI element. Users can easily exit this mode by tapping the Close button (also in the top left corner).

Dedicated Help Section - Like in most traditional desktop software applications, some mobile apps also employ a dedicated help section, usually accessed by a Help icon (question mark or information icon). This section may be within an application (native) or stored on external web pages.

This type of help is less effective than the other types for users as it requires the user to leave the current app and navigate away and then return to a task; however, developers like it because it takes less programming to implement and maintain.

Videos and Demos - videos and demos are great tool for offering a rich presentation to the user and are often engaging experiences. Videos can show complex tasks and help users feel at ease within a given UI while tutorials can quickly show how to complete tasks and procedures.

This type of help, while engaging, does take control away from the user and should give clear feedback to how long the video is as well as a way to stop, rewind, and fast-forward. Videos and demos tend to be fairly time intensive to plan and create and require programming resources to help with integration and maintenance.

In a mobile world user assistance needs to be customized and targeted explicitly for an individual app - it should be seamless, where sometimes the user doesn't even know that she/he is being "helped." Think about the apps you are developing - can the skills of a technical communicator, well versed in user experience and assistance help deliver an even better version experience to your users?


*Note: A big thank you to Joe Welinske who has been offering Webinars and articles on delivering targeted, user centric assistance in the Mobile world. His insight and experience is helpful to technical communicators - both seasoned and new - to translate existing skills to our new Mobile society, which is estimated to grow to be the primary connection tool to the Internet for most people in the World by 2020. I've learned a great deal from Joe's information sharing. You can follow his work on his Web site: Developing UA for Mobile Apps (http://www.writersua.com/mobile/).

Upcoming Events

Fundamentals of Technical Writing

Presented by Joe Welinske

Date: February 18, 2012, 5 Saturdays

Time: 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Place: Bellevue College

See the Website to learn more and to register: http://tinyurl.com/83odwcg.

March QA SIG Meeting

Date: Weds, March 14, 2012

Time: 6:30-8:30 PM

Place: Quardev, Inc. Office

The Science of Being Happy and Productive at Work

Presented by Scott Crabtree

See the QASIG Website to learn more and to register.


Date: April 15th - 20th, 2012

Place: Orlando, FL

100+ learning and networking opportunities, see the STAREAST Website to learn more and to register.

Quardev is looking for Great People

We are always looking for great people to join our team.

At Quardev you will work hard, you will enjoy a great working environment and benefits, and you will be building a solid, interesting, and flexible career where you can learn and grow.

If a career with Quardev sounds interesting, or sounds like it may be a fit for someone you know, check out our Careers page or contact us today via Quardev contact page.

We'd love to meet you!