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Rules, wording, and design of help panel

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MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)

This is a topic for community discussion around the rules, wording, and design of the help panel.

John Broughton (talkcontribs)

In User testing for help panel, the comment "Discoverability of the help panel call-to-action may be reduced in the case when the user is using the Visual Editor or wikitext2017 editor because those editors have a competing '?' icon", is certainly an issue. In VE [I'm less certain about the wikitext2017 editor], the dialog invoked by clicking on that "?" icon should be changed. It now begins "If you encounter any technical issues as you edit, please report them," which (a) is not likely to be why the user clicked on the icon, (b) is duplicated by "Leave feedback about this software", and (c) made sense back in the day when this was beta software, but it's not anymore.

As to what the VE dialog should look like, I suggest "Help:" as a heading, followed immediately by four items: "Open the help panel", "Read the user guide", "Keyboard shortcuts", and "Provide feedback on this software". That (obviously) gets the user to the help panel in just two clicks, while offering some other options.

Also, to quibble, a help icon is usually in the form of a question mark with a circle around it, not a naked question mark. And the icon for the user guide (and maybe the help panel), within the dialog, should be an "i" with a circle around it, for information.

MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Thanks for thinking about this, @John Broughton. We also were thinking about the idea of letting the help panel be an option in the "?" menu. But what do you think about the help panel potentially just superseding the "?" entirely? And removing it from the toolbar? We are going to be able to keep an eye on this, because we recently started tracking how often users open the "?" menu.

John Broughton (talkcontribs)

The only thing that I think is useful in the current ? dialog is the link to the user manual; I'd hate to lose that. Maybe split the difference - have a "circled i" (information) icon that links to the user manual, and a (circled) ? that offers help?

Alternatively, something that has been discussed at some length, but not implemented (for which I'm probably the most to blame, since WMF resources were offered to me a while back, to test the concept) would be to put links to various sections of the user manual in context-specific places (specifically, the various pull-down menus, and menu items of VE). That would obviate the need to put a main link somewhere.

MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Yeah, I was thinking that we could put the link to the user manual in the help panel, so that we would consolidate all the helpful links in one place. How does that sound?

The idea you described about put links to various sections in context-specific places sounds like the "In-context lessons" idea that you helped us discuss a few months ago. I'm hoping that after we get some learning through the help panel, we might turn attention to that idea.

John Broughton (talkcontribs)

Sure, a link in the help panel, to the user manual, is quite satisfactory.

John Broughton (talkcontribs)

Also, I'm guessing (I don't see an explicit statement on this) that you're relying on a volunteer editor's response to a user's question to actually include the user name, which will then trigger an email to that user [I think]. However, while including the user name in a response is common, it doesn't seem universal - see, for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Help_desk#Fixing_Odd_Formatting_on_Article as well as the question and answer immediately below that section. And it's not mentioned in best practices at Growth/Communities/How to work with newcomers on help desks . Are you planning to automate/ensure that an email is in fact generated for the new user when the user's question is posted?

Trizek (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Concerning the point about mentioning people, it is already in the best practices: "Make sure the newcomer is aware of the reply, by any method."

Thank you for pointing it out, though: I've clarified the sentence by having it as a separate point and added "For instance, on wikitext talk pages, mention the user when you reply."

MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)

@John Broughton -- an idea that @Martin Urbanec brought up is to use an abuse filter to remind responders to mention someone in their reply. Do you think that could be a helpful approach?

John Broughton (talkcontribs)

While using the abuse filter has potential, I worry about the details. Specifically, not all edits require a user name - the first in a section, obviously, but possibly the second, because sometimes the user with the questions posts and then edits his/her post, or adds a second post immediately. Or the pattern might be (1) question, (2) response, and (3) elaboration on the response by another (helping) editor; if so, I suspect that the editor of the third post would not appreciate getting a warning, since the second post should already be notifying the user who had the questions.

John Broughton (talkcontribs)

Regarding "Provide clearer times on both the review and confirmation screens for when a newcomer should expect a response from the help desk", that is obviously going to vary by community, and there isn't any way to pick a single number (or range) that is both accurate and helpful across all communities. (For example, "one day to two weeks" is probably accurate, but not helpful; "Within 24 hours" is helpful, and for the English Help desk is accurate, but may well not be for many other communities.

So, two options come to mind - either each community can specify that parameter (hidden comment on the Help desk page? central list that is updated by stewards upon request from an editor?), or an automated way of calculating the average time - say, a bot that checks once per day to compare the date/time stamps in each of the most recent ten sections that have both an initial posting and a posting that is [presumably] in response [different user name].

MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)

@John Broughton -- that's a good idea about letting each wiki specify their usual response time! We're going to hang on to that idea. For now, we know that Czech and Korean Wikipedias (the pilot wikis for this project) can commit to the "day or so" response time, and so we have it hard-coded that way. I hope that if this feature works, and if communities develop enthusiasm around it, they might be able to commit to shorter and more specific response times.

Trizek (WMF) (talkcontribs)

That response time may change over the year, since some people may be away, or some events may slow down he activity on wikis.

John Broughton (talkcontribs)

One way to deal with a response time promise that hasn't been kept is to provide a link/option for the new user to report that "I have not had a reply within the promised time". That report might go to OTRS, for example, or to someone specifically charged with maintaining the response table.

MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Interesting idea. It sounds like something we could include when we think about a way for users to give feedback on their experience with the help panel. We were thinking about that here on Phabricator, and I've added a note.

197.218.81.145 (talkcontribs)

Some ideas are described here: https://www.mediawiki.org/w/index.php?title=Topic:Uq5p24kedymiw6pq&action=history.


I'd say the greatest failing of the current design is the fact that it includes an ability to immediately ask a question before even searching, and it makes it optional to add a page title. Neither should be visible in the first page, and it should not be possible to choose to include the page title as context, as that should always be included in the feedback.

In the short term it might be reasonable to include an extra item in the drop down for visualeditor, as suggested above. Long term, they should be combined into a button that routes the feedback to the appropriate place, either phabricator (for technical matters), VisualEditor/Feedback (for general feedback), a help desk (for general support), or a talk page (for page specific issues) depending on the nature of the problem or feedback.


Also, eventually there should probably be a non-javascript fallback, maybe Special:Help for when either editing without javascript or for users with temporary network glitches.

HLHJ (talkcontribs)

I think a non-JS fallback is essential; anyone editing on a low-bandwidth or expensive connection has a strong motivation to not use JS. Things that require JS, or lots of bandwidth, risk increasing systemic bias.

MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Thanks, @HLHJ. That's an important point. Right now, for non-JS users, the help panel icon shows up just like for other users. When they click it, however, instead of the dynamic experience of interacting with the help panel from the editing context, it opens up the help desk itself in a new tab. At that point, the user would be able to follow the directions on that page to ask their question. Do you think that is a good fallback? Can you think of other ways to do it?

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