SHO for guided help
“Guided help” – that’s when you actually do the task you need to do, and some helpful bubbles or other UI prompts tell you what to do next. You’re not reading documentation, reading help or watching a video. You’re not working on a sandbox or a test site. You are actually getting the job done and learning at the same time.
I’ve recently tried SHO Guide, a tool for creating guided help scripts. It was a lot of fun and a very worthwhile experiment.
In a nutshell, this is what happens: Using SHO Guide, you write scripts and publish them. This produces a “.sho” file for each script. Your customers then use SHO Player (freely downloadable) to play the script. It hooks into the UI of your application and guides them through the steps they need to take.
SHO Player is a quick download (1.3 MB). Installation is painless (apart from the usual chattiness from my Windows Vista OS). SHO Guide is a longer download (60 MB).
When you get your SHO Guide licence key, username and password, you also gain access to the “Resources” part of the SHO web site. This has plenty of tutorials, FAQ, a support forum and information about training. The Quick Start tutorial is very good. Fast, with just the right amount of information to get you started. It guides you through creating a SHO script for Notepad.
Creating scripts with SHO Guide
You can record a series of steps, by clicking the “Record” button in SHO Guide and then performing the steps in the application you’re documenting. Then you can go back later to edit, insert or delete steps as required. This is very useful.
The SHO Guide authoring environment has a familiar look and feel to people who have used various types of authoring tools:
(Click the image to expand it.)
On the left of the above screenshot are the two scripts I’ve created, called “Create a space” and “View all blog posts”. Underneath the scripts are two more segments, hidden at the moment, where you can access extra step types and a library of images and other resources. In the middle is the bubble that the users will see, with various options for you to create conditional paths, filters and actions. It doesn’t take long before you know what’s what and where to find it.
The easiest way to start a script is to record it. Here’s a screenshot showing a recording in action:
In the above screenshot, I’m recording an activity on the Confluence dashboard, running in Internet Explorer. The red square shows the UI element that is currently in focus. At the bottom of the screen is the SHO Guide recorder panel, showing the key presses already recorded. The icon of a video camera at far right means that the recording mode is active and ready for input. The icon changes to a hand when the recording is paused or busy.
Hint: It can take a while to save a recorded action. Wait until the hand changes back to a video camera before continuing with the next click or exiting from SHO Guide, otherwise your clicks may not be recorded.
The end result
Here’s a screenshot showing the starter bubble of a script I created for Confluence, helping people to create a wiki space:
The problem: You’re new to Confluence, or to another Atlassian application. You have to get something done, and you’ve no idea where to start. You’re panicking. You’re in a hurry. The UI is not helping, because it assumes at least a bit of knowledge. Atlassian, WTF??
The solution: Atlassian WTF!! The Atlassian Webapp Tutorial Fantastique. 😉
Curious about the fairy in the bubble? She’s the Atlassian Webapp Tutorial Fairy, of course. She’s also a photograph of my earring. You can add images, videos and documents to your SHO scripts.
Here are a couple more screenshots of the same script in action:
So the user would click the “Create a space” link, as prompted by the green bubble. Confluence then opens the “Create Space” screen and SHO supplies the next bubble, prompting them to enter the space name.
In the screenshot below, see how you can present a choice of paths to the user. In this case, the “Do It For Me” option launches a set of automated steps — another cool feature of SHO.
The user also has the SHO Player toolbar, allowing them to pause or stop the script:
Want to see and read more?
Experimenting with and evaluating SHO was my Atlassian FedEx Day project. There are more screenshots in my FedEx 12 delivery note, as well as some notes about the requirements and limitations of the tool. What on earth is FedEx Day, you ask? It’s a period of 24 hours when Atlassians get to do something totally different from our normal day-to-day job, then present our findings to the rest of the company. It’s pretty cool. I wrote about it last week.
Wrapping it up
BTW, this was just an experiment. The scripts aren’t by any means production ready.
I haven’t had time to investigate SHO in detail. There are many possibilities, such as including sound, video and documents into your scripts, adding specific action types, trapping errors issued by the app, and so on. SHO Guide is easy to download and you can evaluate it for free for two weeks. The Transcensus guys, makers of SHO, have been very friendly and free with offers of help and discussion. Definitely worth a try. Fun too. That’s what it’s all about, huh.
Posted on 25 August 2009, in atlassian, online help, technical writing and tagged atlassian, FedEx, FedEx Day, guided help, online help, performance support enhancement, SHO Guide, SHO Player, technical writing, user assistance. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.