Helping Users to Use Online Resources to Resolve Information Technology Problems: An Opportunity for the Semantic Web
Ivory, Melody Y.
Martin, Andrew P.
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Users need help systems to support their use of complex information technology (IT); however, several studies have shown help systems to be inadequate. To identify ways in which to improve help systems, we administered an online questionnaire to 107 IT users from diverse populations. The questionnaire probed users’ current perceptions and use of help systems that are within software applications, web sites, and mobile devices. A major finding was that two-thirds of users reported that they use web-based content to help them to resolve IT problems; use of web-based content superseded their use of printed and electronic documentation and their communication with technical support specialists and other people. Our study also revealed accessibility issues with online questionnaire systems; we describe specific problems and how we addressed them. Based on our findings, we propose the development of a portal system to harvest help content from various sources, organize intelligently the content, and enable users to search or browse for help on specific IT problems. We consider the system to be an ideal application for the Semantic Web and advocate research and industry collaboration to develop the necessary infrastructure.
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