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I've always had an opinion on the topic how to help users.  If you ask my friends, colleagues, people even who barely know me, they'll probably say I have an opinion about everything.  That may be true as well, but not the topic of this blog!  The opinion that matters here is the best way to help users who get stuck and are in need of assistance.

Up until now, the approach that the mobile service for SAP Fiori (and also the mobile service for app and device management) has taken is this - if a user needs help, redirect them to the appropriate section of the SAP Help Portal, which is the central place for all product documentation.  Don't get me wrong, I think there is a great deal of value in having a central documentation site.  Product documentation isn't just for when you're stuck, there are plenty of scenarios where I refer to documentation before I even start a process, just to prepare for whatever it is I'm about to get myself into.

But if I am in the middle of something, and I am stuck, redirecting me to the documentation site causes two cascading effects.  The first is that I lose context.  I have to find in the documentation where I am in the product in order to know what to do next.  The second is focus and continuity.  I refer to this as the "squirrel effect."  You know what I mean, you having finally gotten into a groove, then something comes along and distracts you.  Once you lose the groove, it's hard to get it back.  SQUIRREL!

Which brings me back to my opinion on the topic of how to help users.  Context sensitive help, embedded user assistance, delivered when and where and how he needs it.  That's what I'm talking about!  And that's why I'm excited about the introduction of a new approach, called Web Assistant, into these two SAP Cloud Platform services.

About Web Assistant
A delightful, intuitive user experience is a critical part of SAP Cloud Platform's strategy for success.  The way that a user gets assistance is a critical part of the user experience and thus critical to that success.  Web Assistant has the following goals in regards to the presentation of user assistance:

  • shown real-time, exactly when the user needs it

  • delivered in a context sensitive way

  • shown directly within the application

  • give insights into how to use a control

Web Assistant keeps me in context, allows me to stay focused and get the task at hand completed.

Enabling and using Web Assistant
To enable Web Assistant in these two services, simply click navigate to the service cockpit for either service and click on the Question mark in the upper right hand portion of the screen:

An informational bar (called a carousel) will appear across the bottom of the screen, and elements that have in-app help will have a green circle on top of them:

To get help on the topic, simply click on the green circle:

If you want to look at the help topics and understand what are of the console they pertain to, click on the topic and it will connect you to the UX area in question:

To turn off the Web Assistant, simply click on the Question mark again, and the circles will disappear.  You can hide the carousel at any time by clicking on the double downward facing arrows on the right hand side of the overlay.  The carousel will disappear.

Whether you hide or show the carousel is up to you.  We anticipate that in the beginning, people will keep the carousel visible.  This gives visibility to the user not just insight into the current control, but at least introductory information on adjacent controls which might also have in-app help.  More advanced users, they may decide to hide the carousel altogether and focus on clicking on a circle as they need help.

Not all elements are documented with Web Assistant yet, the number of topics will expand over time until just about everything important is covered this way.  Please do give it a try and leave any and all feedback at the bottom of this blog.  I'll be watching!