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I am developing a mobile application which has many functionality, and I am pretty sure that the design will confuse the user about how to use some functionality so we decided to include some help as we can see them regularly in desktop applications, but later we found that the help text is too long. We don't think that one screen is enough to describe what a user can do. Moreover the project itself is subjected to evolve based on beta stage and user reports.

After a lot of thinking and meetings we have decided three options to show the users what they can do.

  1. Create the website or blog, so we can let the users know what they can do with this application, the advantage is that it can provide us a good source of marketing, but for that they have to access the site while most part of the application can be used while being offline in earlier versions.

  2. Create a section in the application called demos to show the same thing locally, but we are afraid that it will increase the size, that we think can be avoided (and we are planning to avoid if there is any option)

  3. Show popups, but we discarded this thinking that pop ups annoys user no matter what the platform is.

I want to know from community that which option will you choose, we are also open to accept other ideas if you have.

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Also see ui.stackexchange.com –  LennyProgrammers Feb 15 '11 at 8:44
    
Seems like it's not the place where this question should be asked, will someone help me how to migrate the question to ui.stackexchange.com ?? –  Prasham Feb 15 '11 at 8:57
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3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

From my experience there should only be at most three actionable objects on a single screen and the rest should be done with contextual menus that also don't have more than three items. Emulating desktop UI guidelines for a mobile application is usually not a good idea. This is one of the reasons lists are a popular UI item in mobile apps, they present the relevant details and let the user ask for more information if required.

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Sorry this can't be considered as answer, I think your focus is how the ideal UI should be, but I asked how to show help and I am not clear with your answer that how it helps me, if you can elaborate more focusing on showing help only It will be useful to us. –  Prasham Feb 15 '11 at 9:04
    
well +1 for ideal UI thing, we are started applying this point in one screen where it is possible. But they are unfortunately not connected with help..... –  Prasham Feb 15 '11 at 9:05
    
@MobileDev123: My point is there should be no help. If the user can't figure out what's happening on the screen from contextual cues then shifting the focus and the context to another screen to show help is not going to help matters. At most it will just make them feel dumb since many of your users will be used to snappy/obvious ways of interacting without jumping to help sections. –  davidk01 Feb 15 '11 at 9:22
    
combining the answer and your response, we think that developing a list will be enough that will lead the user to the online page. Moreover we have reduced to help topic document to 30% of the original only by replacing some icons, and eventually drop support for smaller device for android so UI will not look crap as some images are growing to get more screen size. –  Prasham Feb 15 '11 at 9:41
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"I am pretty sure that the design will confuse the user about how to use some functionality so we decided to include some help as we can see them regularly in desktop applications"

I'd consider this very carefully, the mobile experience is very different from the desktop experience. If you approach the mobile solution as a desktop application, your are going to try and fit a mountain into a teacup. So, the application may be more than it needs to be.

There was an awesome article I read as a student: www.accessdevnet.com/docs/zenofpalm.pdf it's called "The Zen of Palm" and gives you a series of zen riddles for helping you think as a mobile developer. If you take the time to read it, I think you'll like it.

Getting to your current problem, one thing you can do is provide short video demos using something like BBFlashback: http://www.bbsoftware.co.uk/bbflashback.aspx

On the site, you list the various use case scenarios for your app and associate it with a short video. Please keep the videos short and specfic.

Good luck

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How about: Cutting out some of the functionality? Is it just there so you have more features than the competition or do your users really need it? In my experience, I would always choose an app that does just enough but in a user-friendly way over an app that has a lot of features that I currently do not need.

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Well we are not thinking about any competition right now, we just have an idea and want see whether it gets accepted or not.The app relies more in background process and mostly the user interaction is to enter some information and turn some settings on and off. But we thought that user must be aware of what's going on. May be we can omit some features in initial release. –  Prasham Feb 15 '11 at 8:36
    
but we have plans to add them later with some more functionality if needed. –  Prasham Feb 15 '11 at 8:37
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