Publication Date

October 2007

Document Type



Based on 40 interviews and 11 on-site workplace observations of people using computer applications at work, we confirm that use of printed and on-line help is very low and find that providing greater detail of categories solution methods can present a more realistic picture of users’ behaviors. Observed study participants encountered a usability problem on average about once every 75 minutes and typically spent about a minute looking for a solution. Participants consumed much more time when they were unaware of a direct way of doing something and instead used less effective methods. Comparison of results from different data-collection methods suggests that interviews, and probably surveys, provide less reliable views of users’ problem-solving behaviors than do participatory evaluation and direct observation.