Sunday, February 5, 2006

Help Meeeeee!

We've all seen it.  The look on a co-worker's face that just says, "That's it, I've tried everything;  I must have tried every possible way to accomplish this, but I just can't figure it out", all in one look.  (Yes, that is a lot to say with one look.)  My bet is that, more times than not, this "look" was brought on by some type of computer-related problem.
Now, granted, I do have an extensive background in troubleshooting applications and problem solving.  But I think that when it comes to computers, a lot of people just give up way too easily.  They might try the first thing that comes to mind, but if that doesn't work... "AHHHH!!!!"
When you start to feel that way think of Kelly Clarkson.  Did Kelly, the homegrown superstar from Texas give up when Simon Cowell said she was too fat?  No!  DidTy Pennington throw down his hammer when Paige Davis broke the news to him about the ruined plywood?  Hardly!  Are you going to let that silly computer get the best of you?!? ...  ... (Are those crickets I hear?  Oh well.)
Most programs have the exact same option on the menubar on the far right side.  Help.  It is there for a reason.  (Yes, it really does do something when you click it.)  Yet, most people would rather bug their next-door neighbor (who is a "computer guy" that they haven't spoken to in over three weeks) rather than click this one little button that will probably answer the problem.  Why is that?  I have a couple of ideas.
I think people don't use the Help button because perhaps they think that since the button is on the computer which is what they are having a problem with, it can't possibly have the solution.  It's the "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" theory of anti-technologists.  If the user is having a problem with Word, they don't see as a problem of MS Word; they think, "Stupid computer... Honey!  Where's the phone?"
My other theory is that the user might actually realize that the Help button might contain the answer, but they don't want to look and find out for fear of being out-smarted by a computer.  (After all, what would the ladies at the PTA say?  I shudder to think.)
Whatever the reason is that people don't use the Help feature in programs, I suppose there is one silver lining:  Those people make the people who do use the Help menus look really smart.  Those are the people who soon get labeled as the office "computer guru" or "techie".  Most of the time this person doesn't know any more about the programs that he or she uses than the next person, but the difference is that when they have a problem they are resourceful.  When those people have a problem they don't go looking for help, they go looking for Help.

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