Usable Help

By Gordon Meyer | Examining onscreen help and documentation.

Usable Help - Real help in real time

Real help in real time

Helpouts by Google leverages their Hangouts architecture to provide one-on-one real-time tutorials and assistance on a variety …

Kindle Fire

Usable Help - Best-selling sofware manuals

Best-selling sofware manuals

Two of the best selling books in 2014 were software manuals. For a video game. I don't mean that they were the …


Usable Help - Engineering reductionism

Engineering reductionism

It's said that every problem can be reduced to a flowchart. In fact, this is essential for the coming singularity. I always …


Usable Help - Death throes of relevancy

Death throes of relevancy

The design exploration (aka masturbation) "Out of the Box" that was done under the aegis of Samsung was supposed to result …


Evernote as a content distribution channel

I’m addicted to Evernote. I use it throughout the day to capture my meeting notes and other thoughts. I was recently joking with a fellow Evernote …


“URL” Stands for…? New Pew Report Has Surprising Stats on America’s Tech Knowledge.

Are you all too familiar with the concept of “leaning in,” but unable to pick Sheryl Sandberg out of a crowd? Vaguely aware that “Moore’s law” refers to rapidly-evolving technology, but drawing a blank on who Mr. Moore is or how transistors multiply?

You’re in the majority.

A new report out today …

Usable Help - Standard reference for mobile doc development

Standard reference for mobile doc development

Joe Welinske's Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps has been revised and expanded. It was the …

Mobile Apps

Usable Help - Simplifying Armageddon

Simplifying Armageddon

Michael Dobbs, writing Nuclear Option for Smithsonian magazine, describes the iconic "Football" valise carried by the President …

U.S. Presidency

Usable Help - So long, Macworld

So long, Macworld

After 30 years of publication, the venerable Macworld magazine will no longer produce a printed magazine. I'm inclined just to say …

Usable Help - Tiny tutorials

Tiny tutorials

While in many ways Vine represents the worst in the erosion of attention spans and polish, it can also be an effective tool for visual …


Guess Who Wrote Microsoft's 'Blue Screen of Death'

If you’ve ever used a Windows PC, you have most likely experienced the "Blue Screen of Death," which would show up when a program experienced a fatal error or became unresponsive. In later versions of Windows, you’d see this blue screen any time you pressed “Control-Alt-Delete.”

Well, according to a …

Microsoft Windows

Usable Help - Why everything is OK

Why everything is OK

Andy Hertzfeld, one of the fathers of Macintosh, writes about how "OK" became the universal "go ahead and do this" interface …

Usable Help - Not our job to make it easy

Not our job to make it easy

Mark Bernstein, writing Intuitive, argues that professional software doesn't always have to always make things intuitive …

Usable Help - How to make a design problem worse with documentation

How to make a design problem worse with documentation

About a year ago I wrote about my experience using an Energizer flashlight that would …


Usable Help - Managing prose as if it were code

Managing prose as if it were code

Frank Miller, writing Is Managing Content the Same as Managing Code? for CIDM, offers several important points on …

Frank Miller

Usable Help - Tech writing with heart

Tech writing with heart

James Somers, writing You’re Probably Using the Wrong Dictionary, observes that somewhere along the line our dictionaries were …

Usable Help - Walkthroughs are cruft to be scraped away

Walkthroughs are cruft to be scraped away

Sarah Perez, writing Rethinking the Mobile App “Walkthrough” for TechCrunch wonders if introductory UI …

Usable Help - A thousand words in a jiffy

A thousand words in a jiffy

David Smith, author of the RSS tool Feed Wrangler, writes about his methods and workflow for creating animated GIF files …

Usable Help - Generate good faked data

Generate good faked data

Here is yet another method to create faux information for use in screenshots and examples. Faker is a Python-based program …

Usable Help - Title goes here

Examining documentation and help systems since 2002


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Gordon R. Meyer

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Usable Help - An impressive online tutorial

An impressive online tutorial

The Portland-based software company Panic Inc has posted an amazing web-based tutorial for its Diet Coda web development …

Bryan Wood on Twitter

A woman attempting to take a picture at a hockey game in Sochi today. This may be one of my favorite pics ever.

👎👎 silly @MarketplaceAPM

Using copyright to keep repair manuals secret undermines circular economy

When I was young, I remember running around my grandfather's workshop – benches strewn with wood shavings, drawers overflowing with tools, shelves lined with dog-eared repair manuals.

Perhaps it was characteristic of a generation touched by the Great Depression, but in my grandfather's era, repair …


Usable Help - Don't tell me you love me

Don't tell me you love me

The iOS app Ember is called out for its unique approach to gathering user feedback. An in-app survey asks for the user's …

Usable Help - Are we not men?

Are we not men?

Bryan Cantrill, CEO of Joyent, writes about how using gender-specific pronouns in code comments is a firing offense. Is your …

Usable Help - Books aren't dead yet

Books aren't dead yet

A recent survey by Voxburner found that 62% of people between 16 and 24 years of age prefer printed books over ebooks. …

Usable Help - Simplified iOS 7 screen shots

Simplified iOS 7 screen shots

The OS X utility Status Magic allows you to easily customize the status bar shown in iOS screen shots. This can be very …

Usable Help - A stick figure explains cryptography

A stick figure explains cryptography

Jeff Moser, an Indiana-based software engineer, has created A Stick Figure Guide to the Advanced Encryption …