Video: “Sliding” Help for iPhone App

Here’s just under 4 minutes showing how we implemented help for an iPhone app, using something we called “sliding help.”

Before rolling the video, though, here are two issues I wrestled with, but didn’t mention in the video:

Reduce Scrolling or Add White Space?

When writing for a regular web page or help file, I’ve developed a sense about when to add a line break. But for the iPhone, I think that scrolling may be even more annoying than it is on the web.

So I gave up some white space and allowed occasional long paragraphs. It’s uglier, but may be easier to use.

Level of Detail

How deep do I dive? This is a constant question when developing help, but the iPhone felt a little different. I think that, again, it’s a matter of trying to avoid scrolling as much as possible.

So I occasionally had a “QUICK” answer that fit on the screen, and then a “MORE DETAIL” answer that you have to scroll to see.

I’m brand new to this stuff, so please let me know your thoughts. Are there things I did right? Wrong? Horrendously wrong?

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7 Responses to “Video: “Sliding” Help for iPhone App”

  1. Anne Sandstrom
    December 21, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing this. (I got here from your comment in Tom Johnson’s blog.)

    I’m looking at what I can see of the help and I have to be brutally honest here. It looks like a 1980s kitchen in a modern house. I think you can make it MUCH shorter and succint.

    So, for the first page, how about something like this:
    ———————————–
    Touch-Fill-Go: What is it?

    Lets you fill out[link]/organize[link] documents anywhere.

    – Take a picture of a document[link]
    – Import a PDF[link]

    Send via email | Sign | Export | Print
    Settings | Lock | Icons[links]
    ———————————–

    Frankly, I try to avoid “Getting Started” topics. How about splitting this up?

    ———————————–
    Touch-Fill-Go: Take a picture of a document

    1. Adjust alignment, cropping,
    brightness/contrast.[link]
    2. Double-tap a line in the doc to add
    a text field
    – or touch Add Field
    – or tap Choose (*) to add text you
    already added to a form
    3. Email it, upload as PDF, or print w/
    your Mac-enabled wi-fi.[links]

    Tell me more [link]
    ———————————–

    This really has me thinking about the doc I’ve been working on. I’m going to go back and take my own advice.

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s helped me gain a new perspective on my own writing!

  2. admin-Robert
    December 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    Anne, that’s a great line about the kitchen.

    We were very concerned, based on initial testing, that people would need a lot more handholding than we originally planned for. This was an app that was similar to, but distinctly different from others out there.

    So one thing we did was throw more content in the help.

    But I definitely see what you’re saying, and of course I agree: the fewer words the better!

    Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate them. Do you have any thoughts about the sliding help, or the idea of a “quick” answer plus a more detailed one?

  3. Anne Sandstrom
    December 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    I really like the sliding help. I’m already thinking how we might do something similar, even for our web apps.

    I also like the quick answer/detailed info model, but might consider structuring it differently – putting the quick answer on one slide/topic, with a link to more detail on a different slide/topc. (I guess I’m going with the less info at a glance, more clicks model…)

    I’m really excited to see a real life example of this type of help, btw. I’m way too cheap to buy a smart phone, so I can only image apps, never mind their help 🙂

  4. admin-Robert
    December 21, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    You could get an iPhone simulator and run software on it! Oh, wait, that wouldn’t be real life….

  5. Reshma
    April 27, 2011 at 4:13 am #

    Thanks a lot for sharing this, Robert. I’m taking baby steps towards converting my regular Help to mobile help for our desktop solution that is now going mobile. The sliding panel has definitely given me ideas. I’d also like to have a way to let users access context sensitive help for a screen at any time they want to. If you have done anything more with this, I’d like to know about it.

  6. David Hutchinson
    June 15, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    What a really cool idea. Showing Help only the first time something is used, and then relying on the user to look in the Help if they need to. Wonder if this would work in a desktop app?

    • admin-Robert
      June 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

      Thanks, David. Personally, I could see it working, but I’d have to decide whether it’s better than other options. That is, if we have lot’s of space to work with, maybe a sidebar or something could work without blocking the whole screen. Interesting t think about, though.

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