The History of Context Sensitive Help

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Context sensitive help (CSP) allows users to remain on the same task and use simple helping elements to gain information. It allows website visitors and software users a chance to quickly understand a function or a term without having to look them up in an instruction manual. This medium of providing help is now implemented in multiple applications and it is now a norm to implement it in modern information systems.

Context sensitive help offers the easiest way to obtain information on screen. It is the primary mode of implementing help in different internet applications such as wikis, manuals, documentation and CMS (content management system) websites.

Users can easily access information by clicking on the help icon placed in the title bar of an application or webpage. Then, they simply have to click on a word or a button to get information about it, usually in the form of a dialog box.

The Start of Context Sensitive Help

Context sensitive help started to appear when the glossary of important terms was made available with the instruction manuals of software guides. With the arrival of the internet, context sensitive help greatly evolved because people required instant, but short helping elements when visiting websites. Most context sensitive help was shown with a mouseover, which means that it showed information about the topic on which the cursor was currently present.

Methods of Context Sensitive Help

There are different methods of context sensitive help that are in use today. User interface options such as windows and tabs can have a special help button that allows them to get detailed information about the links that are currently present on the page. This method uses topic IDs in order to identify the present element which is behind the help cursor.

Embedded Help

There is also the method of embedded text topics that usually appear as pop-ups. They can also appear as light boxes and tooltips. They are embedded as Java Applets on the page and are able to provide efficient context sensitive help on websites.

Similarly, help can also be found in an arranged manner and present as a series of topics provided with an index. There are also help formats that are able to keep track of the mapping required for certain help entries.

We normally have to work with the software developer when implementing context sensitive help in software used professionally. These developers are able to create the required HTML and JAVA tags and codes that allow our given context sensitive help to be correctly placed close to the required software entries.

Using Help Authoring Software

Context sensitive help can easily be implemented by using a well designed help authoring system. There are many software tools that can be ideally used to design context sensitive help and incorporate them in either a webpage or a software display page. Complete management software such as ProProfs also has the ability to create context sensitive help.

The Advantages of Context Sensitive Help

There are so many advantages that are gained from implementing context sensitive help. All products and services are improved with the help and implementation of context sensitive help. Here, we mention some important improvements that are observed in businesses that employ context sensitive help in their product support systems.

Time Reduction in Seeking Help

The most important advantage for a business is that its consumers and product users are satisfied with the support behind the business. Context sensitive help can create much better help tools that are able to provide important information to users in less amount of time. This time reduction is favor that all businesses require to present their product as one with clear ideas and strong supporting mechanism.

People also get away from products if they find that it is difficult to understand its functions and the help is too slow to keep them engaged in learning about an accessory. Context sensitive help is actually able to reduce the number of frustrated product viewers and ensures that people can understand the messages delivered about the product and feel that it is launched with the highest quality supporting material which is prepared in the context of the use by consumers.

Less Frustration on the Client’s Part

Clients are often frustrated if they are not able to understand different terms on a website or a software application. They need clarity in order to take advantage of the information presented to them by a business or software.

Context sensitive help is able to reduce this frustration by resolving most of the problems of understanding different terms and how elements function in a business. It stresses on covering all the functions and operations that are related to client satisfaction.

Value Added Help

The use of good context sensitive help creates value addition in a given help system. As people always require value added services, this value addition raises the current value of the product. It improves the help system whether it is implemented online or on software used on a local server.

Centralized Information

Context sensitive help allows visitors to gather the required information directly from the point of use. It decreases the number of avenues that are available for help and eliminates a lot of chaos and confusion. The implementation of context sensitive help presents important information in the right place and makes it easier for visitors to perform decision making, especially related to a product.

Context sensitive help also reduces inputs of help seekers. These reduced inputs ensure that quality time is spent in the right place. This help also allows for quick modifications and seriously engages the customers.

Self Help

Context sensitive help elements allow people to use self help when navigating around software or a web application. This means that they are able to gradually learn about different elements of a product while working on them. The small help button and the texts included with it are able to help the users a lot. They may never employ a full manual or user guide through the course of their software or website use.

These are a few advantages of context sensitive help that have prompted the use of this method in modern applications. It will continue to grow in the future and implement better help elements according to the industry demands.

Article written by

Robin is a Technical Support Executive. He is an expert in knowledge management and various Knowledge base tools. Currently, he is a resident knowledge management expert at ProProfs. In his free time, Robin enjoys reading and traveling.

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