Help talk:Contents/draft

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This is a proposed revamping of our help page/structure. Currently, a user clicking on "help" (if they can expand the right section on the navbar and find it at all) lands on a page full of links and templates that all presume the person a) knows what they need and b) is willing to dig down to find it. They even need to scroll down at least one screen to find anything that resembles the opportunity to ask or read questions.

In a set of sessions at the NYC Wikiconference this past weekend, a group of editors decided that we should try to find a way to remedy this and de-opaque-ify Help. We created this draft page as a first step to fleshing out what a user-friendly help page would look like. We decided it should be:

  • Minimalistic - having to scroll through pages worth of options, all vaguely-worded, is too off-putting
  • Simply-phrased - we should keep in mind that an editor who comes to our help page may not know our somewhat nonstandard definition of the word "editor." They may not have the slighest idea what something like "Keeping track of changes" means, let alone what topics might be found under something like that. They may not know much of anything, which is why they came to the Help page in the first place!
  • Easy to navigate. You can very quickly get six or seven layers deep in the help pages, on an ever-narrowing path of trying to find what you need to know. Instead, we should offer users a smallish set of options likely to address the most common concerns, and beyond that we should do what's convenient for the help seeker, not the help offerers - namely, we should offer them the chance to ask their question to a real, live (or semi-live) human rather than send them into something resembling phone tree hell.

In the panel, we hashed out what we thought a good first-level help page - the page someone would land on when they clicked "help". It offers the most common questions, in easy-to-understand language, without bogging readers down in a huge list where they have to play Choose your own adventure and hope to reach an answer eventually. Each of these options now needs a fleshed-out sub-page answering the question(s) it deals with, as well as perhaps some basic prose explanations, like "What is Wikipedia?"), before we can even think of bringing this setup live. keɪɑtɪk flʌfi (talk) 16:03, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

Note that we do not propose the deletion of any of the existing help documentation, which is extensive and wonderfully detailed. Rather, we are suggesting that we offer a non-expert-oriented landing page and set of options for those users who are unwilling or unable to delve into the extensive documentation to find the answer to a question. keɪɑtɪk flʌfi (talk) 16:08, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

Discussion and ideas[edit]

  • Comment. I agree with the premise, but not the execution. In my opinion, the help landing page should be:
  1. Minimalistic. Agree wholeheartedly, but draft questions to the left of the "chat box" are too wordy and not relevant to a newcomer.
  2. Simply-phrased. Agreed. It needs to be user-friendly, removing all jargon or terminology not widely understood by individuals that have never visited Wikipedia.
  3. Easy to navigate. Agree with the premise, but not the execution.
If I came upon the draft page looking for answers, I would immediately leave. Most new editors would prefer NOT to chat or speak to a live person, but rather read the information for themselves, and THEN if they have questions, they may consider a chat option. Readable copy is tangible, while conversation is not. Users (new and old) need to have a place of reference to which they can return for clarification. The chat option cannot meet that need. As a graphic/web designer, the current help landing page is much more sufficient and better organized, albeit offering too many links for different levels of users/editors, thereby confusing newcomers. The terminology is inappropriate for first-time visitors and beginning editors. In my opinion, the help landing page could be simplified and divided according to levels of expertise, such as three separate, color-coded graphic links to areas for Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced users. The landing page for the three levels of understanding (or expertise) could then be developed, accordingly, again, with user-friendly terminology. Also, the Beginner Help Landing Page could have a graphic navigational link to the Intermediate and the Intermediate to Advanced. (Phone tree hell is an accurate way to describe the current navigational system. I think the Live Chat should be offered, but not on the initial landing page. Too intimidating for newcomers.) Cindamuse (talk) 20:18, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
  • I have to agree in many parts with Cindamuse. The intentions are exactly what we need, but this organization I must disagree with. The current one seems fairly workable to me, as it lays everything out in a menu-type design. Having people navigate through various subpages (like the article wizard) is useful for some things, but not when someone is trying to quickly figure out what to do. However, that seems like what Help:Contents/draft/contact is going to end up as, sort of like Wikipedia:Contact us's set-up. A bit tedious to find something specific, really. I think that we should be able to lay out every core subject a beginner may want to look for, and offer the IRC chat for anything they can't find (like "Can't find what you're looking for? Feel free to ask us at our live help chat!"), which I must disagree with Cindamuse now, as the IRC help chat is immensely helpful for many users (I spend quite a bit of time there), but probably shouldn't be advertised as big on the main help page, though it needs a spot somewhere on there. Now, Help:Contents seems mostly OK and pretty tweakable to me, but things like Help:Contents/Editing Wikipedia are tl;dr and worthless to anyone who doesn't want to read more than 30 seconds about what to do (AKA most people). We need to focus on the most common question topics, as the draft has, but I think it can be implemented differently. Things we need to have on the main help page: Getting started: some sort of navigation page with maybe this image, user accounts (registering and preferences), a link to the FAQ at the bottom maybe, the help chat link at the bottom, contacting Wikipedia, how to edit, how to write an article; Going deeper (that sounds poorly worded though): policies/guidelines, technical stuff (maybe at the bottom), and uploading images. I personally like the current menu layout, as it gets the stuff in an easy to find format than a list-y design. The links just need to point to very specific pages, not more menus of links. fetch·comms 00:36, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
    • Well, the real problem is that we have multiple audiences that we need to target:
      • Non-editing readers
      • Readers making their first edit(s)
      • Editors with some level of experience
    • For the third group, a setup similar to the current one works fine; people who have already figured out how to edit will generally be looking for something specific, making a flat topic menu useful, and will usually have enough patience and/or interest to look through a long list of topics before giving up and/or wanting to talk to someone live.
    • For the second group, a topic menu becomes more problematic; people making their first edits can easily be overwhelmed by jargon and confused by discussions of more advanced editing methods that would be unsuitable for them. In addition, because they have not yet "joined" Wikipedia, they will typically have less patience for reading multiple screens of information. A menu-like approach can still work here, but it needs to be constrained to only the basic topics, and laid out in a less information-dense fashion than those topics would be for a more experienced editor.
    • For the first group, the menu structure is almost entirely unsuitable; the average non-editing reader will have very little patience, and in most cases will be interested only in contacting someone and/or complaining about something. A small percentage will be interested in learning more about Wikipedia or the editing process, but they will be more concerned with basic principles ("How does this site work?") rather than the minutiae of the editing process or of policy and community interactions. Many first-time visitors will also expect an obvious option to engage in live support, as they will be familiar with other major sites that offer it; indeed, some of them may not even know what Wikipedia is, or realize that it is not an affiliated with the subject of some article they might be reading.
    • The optimal approach, in my view, would be to have different versions of the page displayed depending on whether the viewer (a) was logged in and (b) had made any edits already; but I'm not sure how possible this is from a technical perspective. In the absence of that, we could probably go with something set up using collapsing blocks and the like to simulate the effect to some degree and present each of these three audiences with a version of the page designed for their needs. Kirill [talk] [prof] 01:50, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
      • I agree that we need to target different users differently, but there just is not a good way to do it. I thought about putting the most commonly looked for things at the top (contacting and how to write an article), with the less common things at the bottom (files, policies, etc.), but collapsing seems like a good option to try out, too. My biggest concern is not so much a list or menu or collapsed whatever, but where the links on the main page go to. Directing to more pages of links is not helpful at all, so we need to revamp the subpages as well as the main page. fetch·comms 12:50, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
  • Just wanted to lend my wholehearted support to this. I don't quite understand some of the above comments - maybe they refer to some previous version of the draft than the one we can see now - but this definitely seems to be going in the right direction.--Kotniski (talk) 10:53, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
  • I also like Kirill's idea of multiple displays for different user levels, but barring some awesome dev-level implementation, the only way I can think of to work that would be the equivalent of (to resurrect my phone tree analogy), "If you know the extension of the party you are looking for, dial it now." That is, have the bulk of the page be basic-level options, but give more experienced users a set of links to work off of if they know where they want to go. Perhaps grouped into two boxes, "Basic help" and "More advanced topics" or something.
As a side note, although the page currently displays a big IRC box as the "contact a human option," our discussion actually brought up the possibility of giving users multiple "contact a human" options. So there's IRC, which is quick but somewhat intimidating, but also the Helpdesk (slower and a bit clunky, but takes off the realtime pressure) and gtalk or AIM (less centralized but more likely to be something a new user is already familiar with). We may want to link to all or just some of these at the point (wherever that gets set to) where we offer users an opportunity to interact with a human. keɪɑtɪk flʌfi (talk) 13:00, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
I think separating the options for basic/advanced is good. I also think IRC is great, but maybe not best placed in a big box (maybe have a separate section for live help options). gTalk and AIM seem interesting, but I don't know if it's the best route to go through unregulated (IRC at least has Wikipedia contacts) channels like gTalk quite yet. fetch·comms 14:50, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
I love this idea and agree with the three basic principles of Minimalistic, Simply-phrased, and Easy to navigate.
Wikipedia already has a hundred different places where users can ask questions (and if you ask at the wrong place, somebody helpful will usually point you to the right one), but these are not immediately obvious to the least experienced users. So, if we're looking at multiple "levels" I think we should firmly concentrate on the very lowest level of editorial expertise/experience as this is currently the population that is least catered to.
However, just as an awkward point: The people currently mulling over this problem are typically more experienced users and therefore unlikely to see the problem the same way as the people who really want the help. Indeed, a more experienced editor probably does very different kinds of editing. I think it would be really helpful to talk to somebody who has very little experience but might want to help improve wikipedia in future (go on, ask a friend or colleague in the real world) to get a better picture of what they're interested in doing, and what baffles them when they try to do it. As a minimum, if a first-level help page emerges from this, I'd like to see a couple of newbies invited to try UAT!
bobrayner (talk) 09:42, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

How should we organize this page?[edit]

Is it better for us to provide links to other help pages, or should we just provide the information in the bullets as sections and then include simple details underneath each one? –MuZemike 20:01, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

Neither seems particularly helpful, as the first has the potential for leading to even more long pages to read, while the second clutters up the page with lots of bits of information. However, one choice can't be avoided (unless someone has a stroke of genius and makes an awesome new concept), so I would lean to the first, and hope the page it leads to is good at explaining things. fetch·comms 22:04, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I spoke to Fetchcomms off-wiki about this page, but just 'for the record' here...I really do not like it. I don't like 'Wizard' navigation in general, and certainly not for providing simple help links. It is like those damn telephone systems, "Press 1 for image help, press 2 if you are blocked..." - but, I suspect we will have over 9000 items to choose from.
I also dislike "What kind of help are you looking for?" - it sounds too much like Clippy.
I do not see a need for so many options. To really keep it simple, why not just;
  • Help with Wikipedia -> IRC or helpdesk
  • Other stuff -> Refdesk
  • Contract -> WP:CONTACT
  • <small>Some brief mention/dislaimer re medical/legal</small>
...and that, I think, is all. Simples.  Chzz  ►  09:15, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
Somewhat too simple, to my mind, as it includes no link specifically for helping newbie editors, nor for rank outsiders who have spotted an error in an article. And yes, below these few major links we can have a section of small print, disclaimers and anything else that needs to be said even if few readers care to read it. Yes, making all help pages brief would necessitate a complex maze of them as in robotic voice menus where all lists must be short, which is why our specific pages for editors are much longer. Jim.henderson (talk) 12:54, 7 September 2010 (UTC)
If a newbie editor or an 'outsider' wants to get help, to fix an article, then IRC or helpdesk can assist them just fine. Where else would you send them to? If they really turn out to need eg WP:MCQ or WP:BLPN or WP:RPP or whatever, then the IRC support or the helpdesk will be able to direct their query appropriately, probably by asking them further questions, and often they'll help ensure the inexperienced user manages to post in the right place.
Conversely, if we ask the new user to try to work out which area is appropriate via complicated questions, there are many problems - they might end up in the wrong place, or might end up somewhere with very slow responses, or they might just give up because it is all too much hassle.  Chzz  ►  05:25, 8 September 2010 (UTC)

My initial goal here (I was the one who started the panel about this at the WikiConf) was actually to eliminate the phone tree structure. We currently require users of help to dig down until they find the right place to ask something or find the answer on their own. In my ideal world, Joe Schmoe Reader would be offered quick, idiot-proof links to specialized places for the few top concerns - i.e. "I found a mistake" -> [[page where users can report mistakes]] and "I want to email Mariah Carey! She has a webpage on here, so she must be here!" (surprisingly common, apparently) -> [[page where we explain that we don't know Mariah Carey, either]] - and directed to a catch-all (Helpdesk, IRC, or both) for everything else. If he wanted to do things the complicated-but-more-exact way, there would also be links available for him to delve into detailed help topics.

So rather than the nested series of pages this landing page seems to make people think would follow it, it would actually be only about two, maybe 3, levels deep, from the "beginner" links. Level one, landing page. Level two, when the user clicks something on Level One, would be pages with answers to the X most common help topics OR Helpdesk/IRC if they click the "everything else"-type link. So the flow would look something like...

Help landing page

  • [Popular question #1]
    [Page providing solution to Popular question #1]
  • [Popular question #2]
    [Page providing solution to Popular question #2]
  • Blah blah however many "most common" items we want to handle at this level
  • "I'm not here for one of those"
    IRC link

keɪɑtɪk flʌfi (talk) 16:13, 8 September 2010 (UTC)

I do understand what you mean, but from (literally) thousands of hours in the IRC help channel, I know that it can provide answers to all the questions that you mentioned. Users usually have no clear idea of what their question is, let alone where to find the answer. They will not understand that it is something the reference desk can help with, or something ebst-suited to a noticeboard, or, indeed, that they can click 'edit' and change stuff. I can't see any advantage in this multi-level structure, over the basic 'keep it simple' idea of 'click here for help', with a choice of using the medium of IRC or on-wiki helpdesk.  Chzz  ►  23:01, 8 September 2010 (UTC)

To elaborate just a little bit here; quite often, a user will ask, in IRC, "I want to add a picture to my page"...and this can then proceed down many different routes, depending on their response to questions. The first thing I usually ask them is, "where is this picture from - did you get it from the internet, or is it your own" - thus leading to either help uploading to Commons, or tackling copyright issues...and the latter might lead to help with permission tags, or with OTRS...and then they might want to add a picture to an article - but is it an infobox, or to go into the body, or a gallery..and I hope you can see that even the most basic question so quickly forks into 100s of areas that it is extremely difficuly to make any kind of 'simple selection' to guide them to an answer. I do not wish to sound negative; I just feel that real, live help from other Wikipedians is always going to be the best answer.  Chzz  ►  23:05, 8 September 2010 (UTC)
I think you and I are actually advocating almost the same thing, but from two different directions. You hit the nail on the head when you said that they often don't even know what their question is; for cases like that, live (or semi-live, like the Helpdesk) is absolutely the most efficient way to handle things both from the helper's perspective and the helpee's. I am of the opinion that the vast majority of help concerns should be handled in a real-person manner, for the sake of ease and everyone's sanity.
However, there are also a limited number of things that do not require real-human help and can be phrased pretty idiot-proof-ly, and if we could skim them off the top of the help queue, it would go that much farther in making the workload manageable. So, to harp on my same old examples, things like "I want to talk to Mariah Carey" (we don't really need them to interact with a human to say "Sorry, we don't know her and we can't help you") or "I found a mistake" (I am operating on the assumption that there is an email address that can handle this, something like OTRS, where problems come in and someone handles them without being all "WP:SOFIXIT, newb!". If that's the case, all we would need to do is point the reader who identifies that as their issue to that email. If that's not the case, scratch that example).
Basically I keep getting stuck on the trade-off between barrier-to-entry and efficiency. So it might be the case that it is always more efficient to address help concerns live, but it's almost certainly the case that there will be some...shrink, where a certain portion of people will decide that having to open up a chat or something is just too much trouble, and they don't really care about Wikipedia that much anyway, and so they won't bother to follow up. That's fine for the Mariah Carey fans, but it's something we really should try to avoid with, say, people who want to point out mistakes in our articles.
What's the right balance? I'm not sure. But we do need to keep in mind that is is a balance. keɪɑtɪk flʌfi (talk) 00:47, 9 September 2010 (UTC)

joining forces[edit]

One of those quirks of WP, the very same conversations are being had at Help_talk:Contents#Old_editor.3B_new_helper, between us should get a good answer! Lee∴V (talkcontribs) 10:31, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

Balancing act[edit]

Not much traffic here, considering how many people attended the seminal Wikiconference sessions especially the ones I missed. I was surprised at how poorly WP:BEBOLD is balanced; I mean it's almost all about namespaces. This focus on concepts little needed by newbies is a widespread problem.

With little participation by anyone proposing to rewrite Help Contents from scratch, perhaps we should settle for trimming the number of concepts expressed in big words at the top, moving some to the lower section and letting the others be handled by later pages. As for additions, surely there should one about what to do when Wikipedia is saying wrong things. Jim.henderson (talk) 22:07, 10 September 2010 (UTC)

The frequent response is to put {{subst:sofixit}} (with no comment from me about how useful that is - shown below).  Chzz  ►  18:25, 11 September 2010 (UTC)

Thank you for your suggestion. When you believe an article needs improvement, please feel free to make those changes. Wikipedia is a wiki, so anyone can edit almost any article by simply following the edit this page link at the top. The Wikipedia community encourages you to be bold in updating pages. Don't worry too much about making honest mistakes—they're likely to be found and corrected quickly. If you're not sure how editing works, check out how to edit a page, or use the sandbox to try out your editing skills. New contributors are always welcome. You don't even need to log in (although there are many reasons why you might want to).

3 levels landing page[edit]

Based on the above discussion, and the discussion at Help talk:Contents, I'm liking the idea of a sectioned landing page, and liking the idea of addressing 3 core demographics. Here's what we seem to have so far, regarding content that could be incorporated and/or thought about:

New editors

either a transclusion of, or selected items from, or links to:

Advanced help

We could use

There are also a few navbar templates that are related to this discussion, and which should be looked at: Template:Reader help, Template:Article creation, Template:Wiki markup.


We do not need more pages. (If anything, we need to merge some of the pages we already have (a separate endeavor)). Instead we should probably be focusing on making critical selections of which links to list, and then cleaning up those target pages themselves.

I've made a very rough mockup on the draft page, using the prior content in the 1st section, using the content from Help:Contents/Getting started in the 2nd section, and the current Help menu in the 3rd section. Thoughts? Feel free to add items to the above lists, if that's less confusing. HTH. -- Quiddity (talk) 21:56, 11 September 2010 (UTC)

I like the way you rendered the help page a bit more than how you arranged your suggestion here (although the version on here may just be a listing of what needs to be fitted into the version over on the main page). A "quick help" at the top of the page will provide direction for people who don't know what they don't know, and the deeper options will help everyone else. You've managed to cobble together a page that remains coherent while offering options for beginners, those willing to explore, and those who know what they want. I'd love to see this version fully fleshed out and sent live. keɪɑtɪk flʌfi (talk) 13:29, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
Yup, the items listed above are purely intended as what needs to be examined, by those of us who build the actual Help menu. (Feel free to add items there).
I've made a few minor tweaks, primarily moving the list of "Questions and problems" from the very bottom to the top (it needs to be merged into the "Readers" question list).
The 1st and 2nd sections need to be thought about in-depth, I'm still just mulling options and re-reading what already exists. (So much overlap and redundancy... :/ ...)-- Quiddity (talk) 20:29, 15 September 2010 (UTC)

A related issue: The first step towards help[edit]

As an aside, by default (ie. for a non-logged-in user), I believe the "Help" option is the twelfth option down the left hand side of the screen under the wikipedia logo, in a standard (not emphasised) font. Under the "Interaction" heading. Not very obvious. A couple of screens down the main page, there's a link to the help desk, and that's it. That may not a problem for people who already know how to find help, but they should not be our primary audience. If we want to make help more accessible, I think that making the first step more obvious would be a helpful addition... any comments/support/criticism, before I go make a fool of myself raising this point somewhere else? :-) bobrayner (talk) 08:23, 15 September 2010 (UTC)

Support. When the topic of help first came up at the conference, it took me, an experienced-ish Wikipedian, the better part of a minute to track down the link to it on the front page. I tend to assume that links to help on websites will be either in the header or footer of a page (preferably the header), so I'd be more than happy to see "Help" added as a link right up there next to "My watchlist/My Contributions/whatever logged-out users see up there." If you bring this up elsewhere give us a pointer here so I can join the fray. keɪɑtɪk flʌfi (talk) 13:12, 15 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes it should be more prominant - currently it is under 'interaction', yet a lot of the help isn't really interactive. I think it should be one of the main links, prefereably the last one ( i.e. following 'random article'). Maybe we update the current help link to go to the more interactive areas like questions - or straight to the help desk itself. Lee∴V (talkcontribs) 18:40, 15 September 2010 (UTC)
Thanks; it's now been mentioned over at MediaWiki talk:Sidebar. Personally, I feel that if a reader is unfamiliar with a page, their eyeball will typically work top-down (in some obscure location there are almost certainly some usage stats from the main page, or parts of it, which could be illuminating) so I would prefer help to be higher up; but your suggestion is good too :-)
However, MediaWiki talk:Sidebar is just about the sidebar. I doubt we're going to make drastic changes to mediawiki overnight, but are there other places where a help link would be helpful (or where an existing link should be more obvious)? More generally, is there anywhere else I should ask about this? bobrayner (talk) 23:44, 15 September 2010 (UTC)
Briefly: I'd support moving the Help link within the "Interaction" section (either to the top, or second from top).
Longer version: During the last sidebar redesign (2006/2007, details explained at Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals)/Sidebar redesign, plus 7 archived talkpages... ;) we split the sidebar links into:
"Navigation" for readers (pointing towards content), "Interaction" for editors (pointing towards meta information), and "Toolbox" for per-page-links (+ the uploadfile and specialpages links, as they had to remain in the toolbox purely for technical reasons, iirc).
We contemplated titling the first 2 sections "Browse" and "Information", amongst other possibilities.
Also, here's some wayback machine snapshots, just to refresh our memory (open one from each year in tabs, and go back-and-forth).
And yes, we had "Help" at the top of the "Interact" section in our proposed redesign! I don't recall why that ordering didn't make it in to the actual implementation.
It might be worth perhaps not making any sidebar changes, until we've completed the Help:Contents overhaul itself? Just a thought.
HTH. -- Quiddity (talk) 01:50, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
I think your last point is interesting, but would respectfully disagree :-)
It's unclear when the Help:Contents overhaul would be perfected. Holding off moving the help link in the meantime would mean fewer people find our current help, and I do not see that as a net benefit - even if the current material is mediocre, that's still better than no help at all for some newbies.
I've created an RfC on the question of more prominent help in the sidebar, in the hope of getting broader support.
bobrayner (talk) 10:15, 30 October 2010 (UTC)


Just a note to say I like the sectioning of material to different audiences, but the "friendly" language used on this draft is not helpful. The wordy "I did this", "I need that" sentences are difficult to scan and will likely put people off. We should be using verbs and actions rather than constructing entire situations.

For example:

  • "I want to change, add or remove information" should be "How to edit"
  • "I've found a mistake or problem – Issues with a specific page" could be "Report a problem"
  • "I want to contact someone" is just "Contact"

Incidentally, "I want to ask for help with something" is a ridiculous link to have on the Help contents page. — Pretzels Hii! 21:02, 15 September 2010 (UTC)

I'm going to have to disagree, here. There could be an argument made that full sentences are too wordy, but the goal we should be pursuing here is to reduce jargon and make the options clear to someone who doesn't speak wikipedia. You are proposing adding the jargon back, with some vagueness sprinkled on top. To wit:
  • To someone not well-versed in wiki-speak, "how to edit" means something between "how to become an editor, like in a newspaper" and "how to proofread". It does not mean "how to change, add, or remove things from articles" to most uninitiated readers.
  • Similarly, "report a problem" strikes me as too vague. "Report a problem" with another editor? "Report a problem" with contacting someone? "Report a problem" with an article?
  • Just saying "Contact" brings back the problem of distinguishing between people who want to contact Mariah Carey and those who want to contact wikipedia.
Could you explain more why you think more descriptive wording will put people off?
I do agree that "I want to ask for help with something" is circular and not particularly useful. I'm not sure what it's intended to lead people to at all. keɪɑtɪk flʌfi (talk) 21:52, 15 September 2010 (UTC)
Partially my fault. I tried to merge the list that was at the top there, with the list of 4 items that is currently at the bottom of Help:Contents.
I agree that we have to pick one, but I like both! Depending on mindset we're approaching from. The OTRS/IRC folks generally recommend using "plain language" in our documentation, and the other editors generally prefer using language that matches the pages we're pointing to (eg WP:How to edit). Both make sense, and the choice is difficult.
Feel free to suggest options, or change the draft yourselves. Dig in! -- Quiddity (talk) 23:11, 15 September 2010 (UTC)
In my opinion I thought the "plain language" was excellent for new users, and long-overdue. Perhaps there needs to be an "advanced help" page for more established editors seeking more complex technical or policy/guidelines guidance. I think that the "I want to ask for help with something" is not circular - just badly phrased. Its real function is to serve as a link for "I can't find what I'm looking for on the other links, can somebody else please help me?" - preferably in fewer words. TheGrappler (talk) 17:50, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
I have reworded a little - I didn't agree the 'i want to..' context, seemed a little prescriptive, but agree to keep them in non-wiki wording. Lee∴V (talkcontribs) 10:22, 18 September 2010 (UTC)
In my (admittedly non-expert) opinion, the changes have actually made it a lot worse because the text is now disjointed. When I'm completely stuck, I usually prefer to see prescriptive and somewhat patronizing instructions! They need to (a) have clarity, (b) not treat me like an idiot, and (c) not be too verbose. But the sentences you have changed were by and large on the right side of that ["I want to ask a question" lacked clarity, but I think its replacement by "Asking for help" is even worse! A link by that name is unclear whether it's for help about asking a question, or a place to ask questions - even I was mildly surprised by what the link led to, and I'm experienced here.] The new format is very disjointed to read, because one is faced with (1) a short description on the link, then (2) a longer but repetitive description about what the link is. A single plain English sentence may be slightly longer but is both immediately clearer and far easier to parse (so doesn't actually take as much time to process when reading). A good comparison seems to be: what you've written looks like subheadings in a user manual, when the design philosophy that's needed for a (inexperienced user-centered) help launch page would be closer to that of self-diagnostic help or wizard routines in a software application. There are good reasons why the latter aren't written in the same style as manuals! I'm not an expert in user interface design, but I came to look at this page out of curiosity and remembering what it felt like when I had just stumbled on WP for the first time, and had a lot of questions. The way that the full sentence links worked was excellent, in my opinion: thinking back to my original problems, it seemed very clear which links I'd have clicked on, and they all seemed to direct me in the right direction. The new links seem unnecessarily harder to read and select from, and I'm not sure they all send a newbie to the type of page they'd be expecting. Just my two cents, but have you considered doing any sort of "user experience" testing, or consulting with an expert on the topic? TheGrappler (talk) 22:46, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
(I ought to be clear: the "you" here doesn't refer to Lee or any other editor in particular, but rather to the editing process over this time period. A desperate plea from someone who has got far too stuck on crappy help pages elsewhere follows. Re-reading this thread, part of my problem is that as a user who has got stuck, the type of help I need to get unstuck is actually dependent on what I am trying to do! So work out what I'm trying to do, then either tell me how to do it, or why I can't [e.g. newbie confounded by page protection/page creation/doing something that's against policy e.g. inappropriate external links]. That's not "constructing hypothetical scenarios", it's the most basic level of addressing user needs! Working out what people are actually trying to do and then getting stuck on is one the main points of user experience labs, surely? I think it should be clear to everyone that "How to edit" is an utterly useless link for a general newbie, because it covers both far too much much and far too little. "Editing" can mean the process of using the text editor and writing in wikisyntax for the first time, which can happen on an article page, discussion page, and possibly most confusingly of all, on a category! [First time you clicked "edit" on a category, weren't you flummoxed that the hundreds of listed things you just had up on your screen were no longer to be seen, and you could neither add to nor remove from the list?] The mechanics of editing includes things like how to add internal and external links [but may not explain where it is appropriate to do so; bear in mind this differs depending on namespace although the process of adding a link is identical], sign your signature [doubt newbie success rate at this is higher than 50%], thread comments properly in a discussion, how to include pictures, etc. This is not necessarily the same as the skillset being sought by someone who wants to actually get the text in an article changed. They may need to know about page protection if that's the reason they've got stuck. They may well just want someone else to get the change made on their behalf [typos are often beneficial to WP because they recruit a lot of new, curious editors and give them a gentle, gnomic introduction! But if someone's spotted a BLP violation, our priority mustn't be to get them hooked on the wiki-editing process, it's to make sure the problem is fixed pronto, no matter who by; our help pages must serve both these readers, and the latter mustn't be given the impression they've been told to go read a computer programming manual then amend the problem themselves]. If someone's making changes to an article we'd really like them to know the bare bones of verifiability and neutral point of view, preferably enough that they'd cite a source even if they can't format it. To be honest we should be far more concerned that they can write a page without breaching BLP or spamming, than that they get all their wikiformatting and categorization correct - people learn over time, and there are wikignomes! If a new editor in the "I want to change an article" camp wants to include a photo, then they need help with file uploads and copyright. But if we're talking "how to edit" in the "text editor + wikisyntax" sense, we wouldn't go any further than how to call, align and caption an image using [[File:]]. Please, if you're trying to write a help launchpage, don't use language that may have a subtly different technical meaning like "edit", and do make an effort to work out what the user is trying to do so that you can offer specific and appropriate assistance!) TheGrappler (talk) 23:26, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
Sorry I got a little lost following all that, could do with more concrete suggestions, but taking into account the above as best I can - I've had another go. Is that more like it?. You mention not exposing new readers to the complexities of editing, but ( apart from needing new editors ) in order to perform the basic operations of reporting mistakes or asking for help, we need to explain the editing interface itself, and the rudiments of wiki markup - as this will be encountered as soon as the scary 'edit' button is clicked. Oh for a simpler interface..! We did develop a simple introduction that tries to keep excess information to a minimum - Help:Introduction to talk pages maybe we can wedge that in somewhere?. Lee∴V (talkcontribs) 00:49, 21 September 2010 (UTC)


So, are we getting nowhere, having no consensus for either small changes or a full makeover? Jim.henderson (talk) 11:10, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

If the draft achieves a presentable state, then it can be implemented, but it needs to complete its makeover first :) I'm just very busy elsewhere, currently.
My main thoughts/ideas for further progress, are still up at #3 levels landing page. (The 1st and 2nd sections still need a lot of work, before they're ready for public view. Extending our efforts towards cleaning up the other pages I linked up there, would also be hugely beneficial.) It requires a lot of reading, consideration, and finally some careful editing of this page. Go for it! -- Quiddity (talk) 19:20, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

Everybody who's taking an interest here is also busy with many other interests, thus a full makeover has already taken weeks and is likely to take months to get into workable condition. Meanwhile we can adjust the old one to shift its emphasis to the rawest newbies who are its main consumers. In this light, I propose to move the account maintenance and image file handling links to the less conspicuous lower section. Jim.henderson (talk) 13:29, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

If you mean: just tweak the menu that is currently in place at Help:Contents, then I'd recommend demonstrating your suggestions at Help:Contents/Draft (capital D). I've updated the version that is there, to the current code. I suggest There, rather than "live", simply to avoid frustrating reverts for everyone :)
Regarding your specific suggestions:
I'm not sure which area you mean by "less conspicuous lower section". If you mean the "See also: Department directory ..." line, then that doesn't seem appropriate - Those are 5 completely separate targets, from the main help-subpages.
Also, the "Files" subpage (images, video, etc handling) is very relevant for new-ish editors - placing new images in pages, or tweaking existing wikicode, is a common activity, that shouldn't be made any harder to figure out. -- Quiddity (talk) 19:46, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Personally, I would suggest if we're going to do a halfway change, then we should use what is currently at this draft page, but minus the middle section ("New editors") which is what needs the most work. Also somewhere near the top of our priority list, should be making {{WP help pages (header bar)}} somewhat shorter. HTH. -- Quiddity (talk) 19:46, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

To the "Questions and problems" section of the current Help:Contents page. However, since there is an objection and my next few weeks will be busy, I'll wait a few more months for someone else to do something useful rather than try to organize my argument properly. Jim.henderson (talk) 15:52, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Small Change - relabel Interaction section Help[edit]

On the Mainpage, the word Interaction is vague, a catchall that pretty much catches little. I've been editing for 5 months and only discovered the Help subsection this afternoon. The subsection could then be relabeled Help:Content, which in fact is what it already links to. Newbies dont want to interact, (with anyone) initially - they just need to get straight to the Help:Content section where they can read the introduction. I say relabel the Interaction button Help - and spare aspiring editors a lot of confusion the like of which I have experienced. MarkDask 20:39, 10 November 2010 (UTC)