Users may experience difficulty at any step in the initial experience. Multiple assistance sources should be available at every step and may include the following:
Goal: To help users resolve problems and get assistance as quickly as possible.
Make user assistance available throughout the entire experience.
Comprehensive user assistance must be available to users throughout the initial experience. Despite our best efforts to make products easy to install, easy to use, self-diagnosing, and even self-repairing, there will always be situations in which things don't go as planned or users don't understand something the way it is presented.
User assistance should be available at several levels and through various channels. Provide Quick Access assistance with a guaranteed response time for setup and configuration tasks. For example, offer free telephone assistance that is guaranteed to answer within a few minutes. Avoid keeping the user on Hold. Such delays are very frustrating to users when they are eager to start using a new product.
Provide In Case of Difficulty assistance at each phase.
Provide an In Case of Difficulty section in the documentation of any procedure users are expected to perform. List typical problems users may encounter (as revealed through user testing and surveys) along with solutions. List sources of additional assistance, such as telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and Web pages. Clearly identify those sources for which a fee will be charged, and indicate how the fee may be paid (for example, by charge to the phone bill or a credit card).
Make some of the assistance sources fail-safe.
Do not rely on assistance sources that require the product to be working. For example, the basic assistance provided with a modem must not assume that customers can get on-line.
Offer levels of detail to accommodate varying experience levels.
Plan to accommodate users who vary widely in levels of skill and experience. Assistance information should start with the most basic kinds of problems and move on to more complex problems. For example, begin by determining if the power is switched on or if the mute button has been pressed.