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Chapter 17. User Assistance > Types of User Assistance

Types of User Assistance

As always, the first step is to categorize. There are several ways to categorize user assistance (aren't there always?), but the one I find most useful is by how they interact with the user. User assistance mechanisms can be classified as passive, reactive, and proactive. Passive mechanisms require no action on the part of the user. Status bar text is probably the best example of a passive user assistance mechanism, but ToolTips also fall into this category (although they do require that the user hover the mouse).

Reactive user assistance mechanisms, predictably, react to some action by the user. Reactive user assistance falls into two classes: feedback mechanisms and traditional (or nontraditional) online help. Examples of feedback mechanisms include the dreaded error message, but also tools such as progress bars.


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