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Put the assistance where people need it

Label those fields

Put embarrassing information where they need it

Give more examples

Case study: Shop.Microsoft.com

Challenge: Creating guidelines for customer assistance objects

Embedding customer assistance--how to write labels, tips, & clues

If you're in the middle of ordering a new pair of fuzzy bedroom slippers, and you wonder how to fill out a slot in the form, or ask yourself what the choices mean, you may have to leave the order, go to the top of a FAQ menu, make a choice, read the material, realize it is not what you want, go back to the menu, choose another item, and, if it is relevant, memorize it, and then return, back, back, back to the form, to apply what you learned, if you can still remember it.

If you have a follow-up question, well, you just have to go through the same routine again.

In testing, we see people go through these loops two, three, four, even five times, just trying to understand one form. Little wonder that sites report half to three quarters of their shopping carts are abandoned before checkout is complete. GO TO is bad practice in programming, and GO TO is terrible for a visitor who just wants a simple answer to a question.


See: Ames (2000), Boggan, Farkas and Welinske (1996), Duffy, Palmer, and Mehlenbacher (1992), Horton (1990),  Price (2000), Price and Korman (1993).


Creating customer assistance that actually helps, from Hot Text: Web Writing that Works (2002, PDF, 993K, or about 18 minutes at 56K)


Design the interface as if the product will have no documentation.
--Andrea Ames

Is that a bug on my head? How can I get it off?


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