Book Review: Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps, 2nd Edition

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Joe Welinske, of WritersUA, is something of a guru when it comes to developing Help for mobile devices. In this second edition of Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps, Joe has completely revised it with 300 new pages and 22 new chapters. It also includes 400 illustrations of Help patterns used in apps such as Google Earth, Verizon, and WebMD, along with Joe’s comments about each.

Technical communicators will benefit greatly from reading this book. For those who play a UX role, and even for those who don’t, it is an expertly written and thorough examination of the emerging tools (such as simulation software) and techniques (such as coach marks and embedded Help) used to develop mobile UA. The book also provides information about working with UI text, writing for small-screen interfaces, applying touch language to UA, voice technology, single-sourcing, and other aspects of mobile technology.

This isn’t a quick start guide, it’s more of an engaging textbook, and is well worth keeping nearby as a handy reference. Or, use it to show others in your organization which Help design is best for your mobile app.

Joe Welinske has been involved with software documentation since 1984, specializing in the area of user assistance. He has served as president of the Puget Sound Chapter of STC for two terms, and regularly provides featured talks at other chapters of the Society for Technical Communication.

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You can buy the printed version of the book on Lulu. It is also available through Amazon. The website for the book offers full-color versions of all the images and live links to all the resources.

Some Best Practices When Writing Help Documentation

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If you are planning to create online help documentation and want to make sure you end up with one that is truly helpful, here are three best practices you can follow to make sure it is:

  • Tailor it to users who have with varying skill sets and goals.
  • Review, test, and update it for accuracy.
  • Create context-sensitive topics.

Keep different users in mind

You can’t always predict what every user will know or want to know about any product. On one hand, if you oversimplify help steps, users might get confused. If you provide too much detail, they might get frustrated or bored.

One way to alleviate this problem is to divide help topics into several different types that target users at different skill levels by varying the kind and amount of information you provide. For example, you might have an overview topic, such as a definition of a specific system function, and then provide a link to all of the tasks related to that function within the overview. That way, users get just the specific steps they want.

The key is to allow users to navigate the help documentation to find (or avoid) as much detail as they want.

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