The Presumption of Working Online

An unfortunate usability trend has emerged the past few years — the presumption of working online or being connected 24/7.

This is noticeable with the Help files for certain apps. Rather than open a locally installed Help container with the docs, the user is — abruptly and rudely — thrown into a web browser that attempts to connect to a respective web site.

Another example is dictionaries. Not a spell checker or a thesaurus but full dictionaries to learn the meaning of a word. Most Linux dictionary apps are designed to work with an online dictionary server rather than in offline mode. While a local dictionary server is configurable, the presumption is using an online dictionary server.

Finding help in general? Users are expected to be search engine and man page gurus.

As a tech writer for many years I understand the Holy Grail of single source control for documentation and data. Yet this approach is just plain lazy and reeks of amateurism. People are not connected 24/7 and should not be expected to be always online. Web servers are not always available.

If a help container is too much to ask, then at least include a local copy of the HTML files so when users are rudely thrown into a web browser, they at least do not have to be online.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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