Announcing Contextual Help – let us help you more

Many web apps have a hard time giving their users help when they need it most. We’re all pretty darn good at designing for the happy path, but what happens when our users stray from that? Do we help them get to where they need to go? At New Relic, the answer has been “Not really.” But we’re working that.

Just as we build fault-tolerant applications and bullet-proof CSS, we also want to build assistive interactions: interactions where the user can get help when and where they need it. We’ve been working on this recently by laying the technical groundwork for a better support system. We’ve been beefing up our support team and changed our help desk provider. Now we’re working on integrating the various systems we have in a more helpful way and improving the support experience inside our app.

First stop: In-page help

The New Relic app is a large and complicated beast. We want to help our users understand it better. This morning we released a set of improvements that should help you discover all of the little details on specific pages in the app.

The first thing you notice is that the old “Support” link in the top right corner of the site is gone. It’s been replaced by a “Help” menu. Let’s take a look at the first item in the menu: “About this page.”

When you click on “About this page” you trigger our in-page contextual help system and are treated to the following:

  1. The title of the page
  2. A navigational breadcrumb to help you find this page again later
  3. A brief description of what this page is for
  4. A series of annotations about specific elements on this page

At the moment, we don’t have annotations on all of our pages, but we’re working on building up that content. Think of it as a late-breaking holiday present.

Second stop: How does the site work?

From the help menu, if you click the “Site navigation” link we show you some explanations of the site chrome. This can be very helpful if you’re introducing new employees to your New Relic account. Don’t forget to scroll down — there are some explanations at the bottom of the page.

Third stop: Support page

The “Support page” link goes to the old support page, which has links to the most recent versions of our agents, your license key, and all the other goodies that used to be there.

Last stop: Go straight to our docs or file a support ticket

The last two items in the help menu link you directly to our documentation system, or take you to our ticketing system to start a new support ticket. Your new support ticket comes pre-populated with the URL of the page that you’re on, to help us help you better. (You can always delete it if you want to.)

More to come

The new help menu and the contextual help system are just the beginning We’re working on more improvements to our support, so stay tuned!

Brent Miller is a principal engineer & architect for New Relic. He traded in his training as a botanist to become a frontend engineer, and has spent the past decade building UIs that are easy to manage and helping the engineers around him become better at what they do. View posts by .

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