The Ubuntu “Help and Support” system may be getting a overhaul in time for Lucid.
Developers feel the majority of users are either simply unaware that the help system exists or find it overly complicated to navigate and draw information from.
A default install of Ubuntu has the ‘help centre’ icon sat on the top GNOME panel along with a Firefox icon, so you’d think users would be aware of it from the get-go… Hands up if one of your first moves in a fresh Ubuntu install is removing these icons? No-one runs the help centre before removing the icon and that’s part of the problem.
From then on in people seem to forget that the “Help And Support” application exists, preferring to Google answers to any problems or head straight to the Ubuntu Forums.
Those that do try it are soon left frustrated by the slow load-up times and inconsistent navigation.
The Current Help & Support Centre; sidebar swaps sides, too many clicks needed
Several solutions are currently being proposed, not least of which is transforming the way the Help & Support centre is presented; switching from the current system to a more elegant and powerful “mark up” language called ‘Mallard
‘Mallard’ help users better navigate content via ‘topcis’ (and also via breadcrumbs – in keeping with Nautilus and the Software centre and via ‘topic’ based )
Other people propose simply presenting the information differently, or integrating webkit into Yelp.
Help document written in Mallard
Regardless of what powers the help system has, as a an Ubuntu user I simply want to be able to find the content within the centre – which is actually incredibly well written and informative.
Help Centre On First Run; Easier Access
Another proposal is having the help centre run on first login of a fresh install as with Windows and OpenSuse. Whilst users may quickly close the “first run” help centre, the exposure to it will help ingrain the fact that a help system is available offline.
Of course, help centres are no use without easy access and one proposal is to move the current menu entry to a more accessible location – above the Software Centre.
As the discussions surrounding the documentation are still on-going and due to the fact that Lucid is fast approaching, these changes may have to sit out and be included in Lucid +1.
All I can say is it can’t come soon enough…