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Help vs. Info

I have been toying with changing all the menu's etc. in my apps and web from "Help" to "Info".

The idea being, the user doesn't need help, she needs information.  She knows her business better that I do, so it's presumptuous of me to indicate otherwise.

Just finished About Face 2.0 and it struck me as valid.

Any thoughts?  Am I being a hopeless semantic

B#
Saturday, December 20, 2003

"Help" is the de-facto standard on most software products when it comes to looking for info.

Steve Kurg's First law of usability: "Don't make me think" :-)

Prakash S
Saturday, December 20, 2003

The guidelines for all the major desktop GUIs I know of call it the "Help" menu. Your app will stick out like a sore thumb.

I wouldn't do it.

Chris Altmann
Saturday, December 20, 2003

I'm still not sure it isn't time to give it a bash...

My apps are process control for Manufacturing Plants or Facilities.  2 years ago I changed the File menu to Facility.  New, Open, Archive, etc. and I have yet to receive one comment either way.  Not a huge user base but decent.

I think I read that railroad tracks are x inches apart because that was the width between the wheels of Roman Chariots.  Surely we don't have to wait millenia to get users to gurgitate this small change.

I may be hallucinating, of course.

B#
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Change it to Info.

If you've read and internalized Cooper's works, go with your gut.

Kentasy
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Yeah, I think you're right.

B#
Saturday, December 20, 2003

I think "Help" is the correct semantics.  The user doesn't need help with their business, but that's not what the menu indicates.  What the user does want is "help" using your application.  If they wanted "info" they'd open a web browser or crack open a book.

I agree that changing the "File" menu may be a good idea, mainly because it's horribly broken metaphor for many applications and I have never understood why "Exit" should be on the "File" menu.  But "Help" is not a broken metaphor.  Perhaps it should be changed into the exclamation, "Help!" but "Info" is no better and will confuse the average user who expects there to be a "Help" menu.

anon
Saturday, December 20, 2003

I agree with anon. I equate "Info" with information about... Maybe information about the page I'm on, the program itself (32% memory free), or an "About" page. I don't equate "Info" with "Help."

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Info has no meaning without context. The context of help can be inferred. I'm not clicking on anything specific, so it's help about the program. People know to expect that. But info? About what?

Andrew Cherry
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Why not call it "How do I...?" ?
Or "What's this thing do?"
Or "Documentation"
Or "Online Manuals"

I also think you should put it in the second position after "Facility". And use Ctrl-H for "Hard Copy" instead of that silly "Print"
Ctrl-L for "Locate" instead of Ctrl-F for "Find"

To resize the window, I've always thought it would be easier to right-click on the edge once, then right-click again where I want the edge to be.

Ctrl-C should be "Cut," Ctrl-X for "xerox" and Ctrl-P for "Paste"

Now go back to the book and learn about standards and why we should embrace them. Someone who's never used software again will have to read and parse for *something* whether it's "Help" or "Info." But people who have used Windows applications will look for "Help" - you are confusing them, which I believe runs counter to what *every* interface expert says on the subject.

BTW, one more reason standards are nice - there's enough to do in developing a software application. Standards mean the DEVELOPER doesn't have to think...

Philo

Philo
Saturday, December 20, 2003

"I've been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains." -- Rob Gordon.

I don't know.

The way to find out is to run an experiment, to actually measure which label gets a better reponse, and by how much.

Generally, when a user invokes a program, it is with a particular goal in mind.  I can't think of any occassion when my goal was to read a help page, but perhaps you have a different profile of users. 

I find it difficult to believe a label on a help menu is going to be a significant differentiator.  Therefore, I guess that the improvement in the user experience will not be enough to justify the expense of the experiment.

So I would stick with the standard.

Danil
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Renaming the "Help" menu may not seem like a big change, but doing so would depart from a very strongly-used convention.  Don't do it unless you have a compelling justification.  (And I've never heard of someone being insulted by a "Help" menu.)

Think about how this change would affect your users -- when someone is confused by your program, he or she may look for the "Help" menu.  If there isn't one, the user will either (1) conclude that the program doesn't have a Help feature or (2) have to stop and think about whether "Info" is actually a renamed "Help" feature.  ("Info" is so generic that it would be hard to guess what it does.)  Either way, the user will quite possibly feel momentarily annoyed with the program.

At the risk of souding like a Joel groupie, check out Chapter 5 of his User Interface book:

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/uibook/chapters/fog0000000061.html

Robert Jacobson
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Andrew has a point. Information is way too generic. Remember what IT stands for. Everything you do with a software application has to do with "Info." Help, on the other hand, as everyone else seems to be saying, has a very specific meaning in software. It's a convention that works, don't break it unless your "info" has different semantics than a regular "help" system.

Big B
Sunday, December 21, 2003

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Aphorist
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Upon reflection, it really is no better.

Newly minted zealots not withstanding, thanks for all the Help... er Info.

I WAS hallucinating!

B#
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Seem you've made a good decision.
Info is quite generic. In fact, on the Mac, there is (or was?) a menu item called Get Info in the Finder and some other apps, which is the equivalent of Properties on Windows.

mb
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Okay.. so I'm in Internet Explorer, and I'm looking at the JoS forum. I see there's an Info menu option, what do I expect to find under it?

Information about the page I'm on. How many kilobytes? How many graphics? What links does it have? Is it SSL?

Now I want to find out how I increase the font size. Where do I go? I see an Info button... do I really say to myself "That's where I'll find what I'm looking for?"

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, December 22, 2003

The trouble with colloquial abbreviations is that they tend to be local, like “ad” and “advert” for advertisement. “Info” or “infos” would be understood in the US, but it isn’t a standard abbreviation.

Celia Redmore
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

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