I would like to know if there is any consensus on the best way to provide help in complex web applications (online banking in my case). The web app contains dashboards, scrollers with table content, forms. My client is asking what works best and why. I am looking into such things as: videos, interactive tutorials, help overlays, help windows, tool-tips, help manuals, FAQ, wizards, etc. Obviously I will have to combine several patterns, but would like to limit the number in a justified manner.


The question is a little bit too broad, but here are some things for you to think about in terms of providing help/assistance to the users:

  • Levels of help: are you trying to provide help for them at the application level, transaction level, page level or field level? So it could be as broad as introducing a product/service to a user to giving them help text for filling in a field correctly
  • Method of help: are you providing pro-active help (before they start), reactive help (based on incorrect input or validation errors) or passive help (FAQ or manual/guide)
  • Source of information: are you creating help from user-contributed enquiries, product services and features, potential issues that might arise out of the specifications for future releases/updates

If a client doesn't know what works best and why, you should not provide an answer based purely on standard/best practices because every application and every set of usergroups is different. Make sure that you do some research to avoid the embarrassment of providing help that no one wants!

  • Thank you, Michael. Your answer provides excellent structure to my discussion. – user81237 Mar 24 '16 at 5:02

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