Contextual Help: Making Help more Relevant to the User

0 Comments. Customer Support
Contextual help

How would you feel if those green direction boards at road junctions in your city are replaced by city maps? Weird, wouldn’t it be?

It’s contextual and logical to have a direction board instead of a map. Relevancy is the key which a map would lack in that location. Because help should be relevant to the user’s context.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about online help manuals. An entire online help manual is often thrust upon users when they need help with a certain instance of the website/web-app. The context and relevancy are always missing. 

To help users explicitly in the context they are, companies are shifting to contextual help a.k.a context sensitive help, in place of lengthy online user manuals. Contextual help provides concise information to users based on their current state and with minimal disruption in their ongoing workflow.

There isn’t a lot of literature on contextual help, so let’s just try to understand it in its simplest form. And we will also give you a secret recipe that will help you create contextual help seamlessly, without any hindrance.

So, What Exactly is Contextual Help?

For website/web-app users, contextual help or context-sensitive help is a simple method of getting their queries resolved promptly. While using a help manual, users have to switch contexts, read and understand the mentioned steps and then get back to the context and replicate those steps. Complicated, isn’t it!? On the other hand, contextual help provides help so subtly that users do not even realise that they are making an effort to seek help. It’s called as context sensitive help because it provides concise information to users for the situation that is associated with the context in which they are working.

At the same time, providing contextual help also helps in reducing the volume of support tickets. Because, when users understand your product, they are less likely to raise support tickets and increase your overall support overhead. Even if you have the best customer support tools for ticket management, who wouldn’t want to have lesser support tickets being raised!

But, Why Would Users Seek Contextual Help?

Even after the rise of artificial intelligence in customer support, the most obvious reason behind why users seek contextual help is – convenience. Users can conveniently solve their queries without waiting for any assistance or referring to a user manual, saving on a lot of time. According to Forrester report, Over 65% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good online service. But, apart from this, there are many more reasons to why your users direly want to seek contextual help.

  • When you ask a user to perform an action to seek help, you actually take help away from him/her. In the case of contextual help, the user doesn’t mostly need to take any actions for seeking help. It subtly appears in front of him/her as and when he needs it.
  • The customer base is now dominated by Millennials customers, who are said to have little to no patience for reading lengthy help documents. Give them that and they are bound to leave your website, probably forever. Plus, they might also communicate their experience to others.
  • Contextual help is least disruptive to workflows. Users can opt for contextual help without leaving their current workflow.

How Can Contextual Help be Provided?

So now when you know that users simply love contextual help, the next step should be to find out how can contextual help be made available to them.

1. Tooltips

A tooltip is a small description that is displayed when a cursor is moved over an icon, hyperlink, etc. The image below shows tooltips in Google Analytics. When a user moves the cursor on the ‘question mark’ icon, a tooltip pops up. Tooltips generally provide a description of a functionality/feature that users find difficult to understand or want to know more about.

Contextual Help through tooltips

2. Walkthroughs

A walkthrough can be understood as a series of tooltips that appear one at a time, and provide step-by-step instructions to guide the user to complete his/her task right from the beginning until the end.

The image below shows how tooltips form a walkthrough (guided walkthrough) to literally handhold the user till his/her task is completed.

contextual help through walkthroughs

3. Embedded Help

Embedded help provides contextual help by displaying specific steps to the user within the software itself, without letting him/her search for it.

As shown in the image, Gmail uses embedded help that gets displayed as and when a user clicks on the “Learn More” option.

Contextual help through embedded help

4. Inline Instruction

This is the most basic form of contextual help. While signing up for an account or while filling a form, we have all seen inline instructions that prompt us to fill the required details in the dialog box.

Contextual help through inline instructions

Above mentioned are the most popular ways of providing contextual help to users. So now, how can you create contextual help to be embedded inside a software?

How to Create Contextual Help – SMARTLY!

A common misconception about contextual help is that – it’s difficult to implement. Because, even if you use the most sophisticated documentation software’s, creating contextual help requires sound coding knowledge. This creates a lot of dependency on the technical team, which isn’t always free to catch hold of.

Whatfix becomes your savior in such a situation. It provides contextual help through interactive walkthroughs. These walkthroughs can easily be created within a span of 2-5 minutes, even by a person from non-tech background. An interactive walkthrough is different from a normal walkthrough in the sense that it keeps the user engaged by prompting him/her to follow the instructions displayed.

The gif below shows how an interactive walkthrough created using Whatfix provides contextual help.

contextual help interactive walkthroughs

Interactive walkthroughs can also be used to guide users when they reach out for help via chat/email or any other support channels. Instead of narrating them each and every step they must follow to solve their query, you can direct them to an interactive walkthrough. The walkthrough will then provide step-by-step instructions and let the user complete the task at his/her own pace. Whatfix can easily be integrated across all user touch points like email, chat, helpdesk, and social media and helps in answering tickets effectively thus reducing the overall support overhead.

Where Can Contextual Help be Used?

1. In Providing Self-Service Support

Instead of having FAQ’s on your website, it’s better to use contextual help. Before users reach out to the company for support, they should have an option to self-serve their support queries. You can have a small self-service widget on every page of the website/web-app that contains all help topics that fall under the context of that page.

This will surely delight your customer because they already want to opt for self-service support. 75% respondents of Zendesk survey said self-service is a convenient way to address customer service issues.

2. In Helping Users Understand Your Product

No matter how self-intuitive your website/web-app is, having a user onboarding process that helps the user understand your product, always compliments its design.

Contextual help can either be used to provide product tour when a user visits the website for the first time. Or, it can guide the user at every step he takes while completing a task on the website.

Summing it up

According to Shep Hyken, the customer service expert, ideal customer service is the one that does not put any onus on the customer. That is, companies take all responsibilities on themselves, without bothering the customers with anything. In the age of online customer service, customers do not even want to take the onus of contacting the company for help. In such a scenario, you direly need to have contextual help on your website.


It’s difficult to implement contextual help using conventional methods. Whatfix can help you create and implement contextual help easily for your website/web-app. To know how we can help you with this, sign-up for a free customized demo right away.

Shivani Nalkar

Shivani Nalkar

Shivani is a Content and Social Media Marketer at Whatfix. She is a voracious reader and a dilettante chef. She joined Whatfix as a fresher, and is spending her days learning the tips and trick of her new trade.
Shivani Nalkar

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