User Education

When I started working on our support documentation back in 2010, our users found it helpful about 50% of the time. So we went to work on creating a better manual. That involved a lot of things including changing they way we wrote and the way we organized things. Today users say our articles are helpful 75% of the time.

That’s a pretty great improvement (we think we can do even better) but one thing I noticed was that there was another important factor at work – where and when someone is pointed to an article. By far, the biggest spikes in our helpfulness rating come when someone points a reader to one of our articles. When you already have a person engaged in a topic and then say, “you should look at this because it will help” they not only do, they often find those articles helpful 90% or more of the time. These are classic teachable moments and I think it’s incredibly important to make use of them whenever possible.

Here are two examples of things that people hadn’t gone out of their way to learn about but when they were pointed to the articles in another context, they responded enthusiastically. Back in February, The Den blog pointed to an article about choosing passwords. Now people don’t really ever look for this article on our support site. But when they read about it in this one blog post, 88,000 people clicked though and rated it helpful 95% of the time.

And more recently, Facebook started linking Firefox 3.6 users to this article in an effort to get them to upgrade. Over the last two months more than 1.1 million people have visited and rated that article helpful 95% of the time. We’ve also seen this kind of response when linking to articles about new features on the page that Firefox shows you after updating.

It’s important to have a great user manual. Kathy Sierra made the point over and over again that the way to create passionate users is to teach them how to kick ass. And, especially for something like a web browser that people expect to open up and have it just work, it’s critical to incorporate that teaching (in the browser or externally) in the right context – at the moment someone wants or needs it. That’s a much better experience than stopping what you are doing and trying to sift though an entire internet full of information. Who has time for that?

This is something that I’m extremely excited to be working on over the next year as part of the Support Team’s goal of creating an amazing support experience for all of our products.

5 thoughts on “User Education

  1. Very good insight Verdi, thanks for sharing!

    Just brainstorming here – I guess thinking of the future, we could try to find ways that we could initiate these “teachable moments” for users.

    In the Facebook example, although a great opportunity to educate users, appears to have been something out of our control that caused it. If I understand correctly, it was Facebook telling users “hey, you should upgrade for a better experience”, while the users were already engaged with Facebook, that caused the “teachable moment” to happen.

    The Den appears to be a good example of something that we have much more control over, however, for creating these “teachable moments”. We can also pay attention to the way a user asks a question in the forums. If he or she appears interested in the subject, or is engaged asking various questions, we can grab that opportunity by it’s horns and give him or her a little more educational materials.

    Regardless, very good article with really nice numbers to back it all up! =)

  2. Yes. I’ve been thinking about what we can do with the opportunities under our control and starting to work with a larger group of people across user experience, product marketing and user engagement to get things moving. That’s what I’ll be working on and will post more about it soon.

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