Tuesday, September 16, 2008

There's no need to fear...the Help Center is here!

underdog.jpg If you haven't already seen it, check out ASU's new online Help Center. The Help Center replaced the Technology Knowledge Base (commonly called the Techbase Wiki); it's easier to use, has enhanced search functionality, and users can even request the addition of new articles. We're hoping to make it a one-stop shop, a place where you can get answers to all your technology questions.

Martha Steinacker is the Help Center's editor. She's responsible for reviewing data from the search logs, the Help Desk, and CRM to continuously find out what people want to know. It's interesting that so many of the community's questions cluster into relatively small groups. We've found that more than 70% of user questions can be answered by fewer than a hundred articles. So Martha concentrates a lot of her effort on those first hundred articles, making sure they're both technically accurate and reader-friendly.

Of course, there's the other 30% to consider. This is what you'd call The Long Tail. If your question is a little off the beaten track, its answer is still awfully important to you when you need to know it. That's why we're seeking articles from around the community. There's a terrific set of FAQs listed in the Help Center that tells you what types of articles you can submit and how to submit them. Martha will help vet them for accuracy and style and link them in to try to keep the Help Center as complete as possible.

You may remember my earlier post on the amazon.com-ification of ASU's Internet technologies. We hope the Help Center is a part of that process. By reducing the number of places you have to look (pruning) and consolidating the most helpful stuff in an easy to use place (concentrate), we hope to make ASU's technologies easier to use.

We patterned the Help Center after Amazon's site. There's an old saying in product development that's a little out of place in a university: when creating a new capability don't shade your eyes, plagiarize. Amazon probably spent a lot of money to figure out a good way to help their customers. If we can do half as well, we may be on the way.

As always, looking forward to your comments and feedback...

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