Loughborough University
Thesis-2000-Abdullahi.pdf (45.96 MB)

An examination of the weaknesses in current online help systems and a proposed solution using an integrated information base

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posted on 2018-05-24, 14:00 authored by Usman G. Abdullahi
This thesis reports results of a research study into the usefulness of On-line Help Systems for application software users. The main objective of the research was to examine existing On-line Help systems, identify their weaknesses, and propose a means of rectifying the problems identified. A study of the available relevant literature revealed that both users and designers have divergent views as to the overall usability and efficacy of On-line Information, and this diversity has contributed to the problems inherent in On-line Help systems. An initial user survey was conducted with a group of computer users who were professionals in their own areas, many of whom also have considerable experience in the applications examined. The results are in agreement with the hypothesis that in spite of the long history of software development and the existence of research in the area, users of On-line Help Systems still find them unsatisfactory. The results also revealed that even experienced users find some aspects of existing Online Help Systems difficult to use, and that, in general current versions are not well received. A set of exploratory experiments has been carried out with users interacting with Microsoft Excel, using the On-line Help system at one sitting and the User Manual at another. These investigations revealed the existence of design and accessibility problems. Three terms best describe the problems identified - Vocabulary, Compartmentalisation, and the lack of an Integrated Base. An optimal approach to the design of On-line Help systems that will overcome these problems is proposed and a prototype system implemented and evaluated. The research has achieved its aim of providing a contribution to the design and implementation of On-line Help Systems that should enhance both the usability and efficacy of On-line support systems.


Commonwealth of Nations, Scholarship Commission.



  • Science


  • Computer Science


© Usman Gambo Abdullahi

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy at Loughborough University.


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