Information retrieval systems should ideally be designed in a way to enable the end-user to use them without outside assistance, special documentation or training. However, regardless of the type of interface adopted, users inevitably require some form of help system when working with an online catalogue. Error and other system messages should also be considered to be a part of online help and terminology, acronyms etc. should be consistent throughout the system.

The most common forms of online help are:

  • Online tutorial
  • Online manual
  • Context-sensitive help
  • Online guidance

It is common for online systems to include several of these options.

Online help should be:

  • Available at all times
  • Well-constructed and should reveal its structure to the user
  • Well presented
  • Well written and use friendly language
  • Accommodate more than one user level
  • Easy both to enter and exit