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I am creating some in-line help documentation for my software and I was wondering whether it is reasonable to expect that the user knows that pressing the F1 key will allow them to access this help, or should I include a button (in the top right maybe) that also provides access. Obviously from a design and appearance point of view I would rather not have to add an extra button.

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    The only times I ever open help dialogues with F1 is on accident.
    – Keavon
    May 27, 2014 at 4:40
  • @Keavon Yes! 100% agreed
    – MonkeyZeus
    May 27, 2014 at 17:35

1 Answer 1

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No, it is not reasonable to expect knowledge of F1 shortcut.

Specifically I have experience of two different desktop applications where there was significant UX issues because user knowledge of the "F1" shortcut key for Help was assumed. Testing and in the field feedback proved the help links embedded in the UI (both the menu and inside dialogs) was used and useful.

With the web UI becoming prevalent the number of users that never will learn the "F1" convention is increasing.

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  • Do you think then it would be sensible to use a small blue question mark in the top right hand corner as another way to access help May 26, 2014 at 20:55
  • If it is consistent with application's icon set and clear enough then "Yes", because this has become a reasonably consistent location to find help. However do be fully aware of the OS guidelines e.g. Apple has strong guidance on how to do User Assistance developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/userexperience/…
    – Jason A.
    May 26, 2014 at 21:23

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