Survey Results: How Do We Improve User Help?

A few months ago I put up a (very) short survey asking readers what we can do to improve application help.  Here are the results:

How would you describe your profession?

Answer Votes Vote Count/Percentage
Technical Writer
 
8 Votes(66%)
Developer
 
1 Votes(8%)
Designer
 
3 Votes(25%)

Total Votes: 12


How would you rate the help system that is provided for the product you work on?

Answer Votes Vote Count/Percentage
Awesome
 
0 Votes(0%)
Gets the job done
 
9 Votes(69%)
Terrible
 
4 Votes(30%)
What help system?
 
0 Votes(0%)

Total Votes: 13


Do you think that help systems, generally speaking, do a good job?

Answer Votes Vote Count/Percentage
Yes
 
7 Votes(50%)
No
 
7 Votes(50%)

Total Votes: 14


Which feature would most improve help systems?

Answer Votes Vote Count/Percentage
Context-sensitive, so when the user requests help they see content relevant to what they are currently working on
 
10 Votes(40%)
Easy to create and update
 
4 Votes(16%)
Embedded, so users don’t have to stop what they’re doing to find the information they need
 
11 Votes(44%)
None of the above, help is just fine the way it is
 
0 Votes(0%)

Total Votes: 25


Anything you want to add?

Answer
No to wikis, No to pinterest. Stop trying to reinvent and concentrate on content.
Integrate company-produced help content with content from real users
Often times, searchable help is not very refined. It would great if searching for the help topic you want actually produced useful returns on the search.
I like it when a help guide has simple, step by step explanations that I can follow and feel comfortable referring my students to.
A great product doesn’t require documentation! ;)
I see very little context-sensitive help nowadays. Help authoring tools are the worst at providing good help, which is quite ironic.

Big thanks to everyone who participated in the survey! I was surprised by some of the answers – especially the even split on the question of whether help systems are doing a good job.