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Jan 03, 2002: In Search Of...

...a really, really useful tech support site (or subsite). One that actually has an information architecture that helps you find the answers you need (not to mention the content to back those answers up). Please send me 1) a URL and 2) just a few words on what makes this site so good. Or just comment below. The "winner" gets a signed polar bear book.

And by the way everyone: Happy New Year! Thank goodness 2001 is fini.

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Comment: Chris Chandler (Jan 5, 2002)


Lou,

Two answers, although I'm not sure either will be all that helpful:

1) Without a doubt, the site I go to for tech support questions of any stripe, and for far more than my computer stuff, the place where you can find answers to the most obscure questions, the site that has made me look about 1000X smarter than I am is:

Google Groups (formerly DejaNews)
http://groups.google.com

2)The second best tech support site in my experience, i.e. I can find what I need roughly 33-50% of the time, is the online support at Dell computers.

I can't send you the URL, because it's keyed to my account and the three machines I've bought from them over the years -- and that's it's secret I think. The site knows my configuration (better than I do, and in fact one of my prime uses of the site is to look up the hardware specs on one of the machines), so I don't have to pick through endless menus and links to find relevant information.

-cc

Comment: Lyle (Jan 7, 2002)

Lou,

Not sure that there's *one* great site, but there are a few big ones that show some developing best practices.

I think IBM's support site is pretty good http://www.ibm.com/support/ :

- good search E.g. I have a 300PM -- it says so on the front of my IBM PC, searching for "300PL video drivers" yields some pretty good results in a pretty good interface.

- they include links to related topics like warranties, maintenance contracts, and technical training

- downloads are handled specifically. Sometimes you know you need a patch or other download.

Sun's support area http://www.sun.com/service/support/ does the following well:
- Separate support site for certain user profile (system admins): http://www.sun.com/bigadmin/

- Sub site for common and difficult task of finding/tracking latest patches: http://sunsolve.sun.com/

Microsoft's is also good in some respects. http://support.microsoft.com/ Especially considering the volume of information it covers:

- Search knowledge base by product
- Windows, Office & IE product downloads presented at higher level in nav than othe product (most popular)
- Con: Search isn't very intuitive -- generally get too many results and very technical ones at that.

Lyle

Personal Web Log:
http://crocolyle.blogspot.com/
Commentary on usability, information architecture and web design.

Comment: Liz Augustine (Jan 7, 2002)

My nomination is adobe.com. I use Frame and occasionally have a question I can’t answer by using the Frame user’s manual (which is quite comprehensive and well-indexed). I like the support site (clunky though the interface may be) because the search engine works so well. I type in a few words of interest and possibly an error message and get a list of possible articles to look at. About 90% of the time, the answer to my question is in the top five items of the list.

The problem with this nomination is that the support knowledgebase (as they call it) doesn’t look like much – it’s the behavior I like; it gives me fast access to information that I need when I need it.

Example: a few days ago, I kept getting an error message saying that the print setting for color black was inconsistent. At http://www.adobe.com/support/database.html, I typed something like “print setting inconsistent”. The search engine returned 658 possible matches, but notice how helpful the overviews are. The second item on the list gave me some very helpful advice. If you try this at home, note also the supplemental information down the left side, some of which is context-setting, some of which provides relevancy information (date edited), and some of which asks for feedback or offers help with searches.

Not perfect, but it works just fine.

Oh, and while transferring this message from email to Lou's Bloug, I also remembered that I've gotten great and quick help about printers at http://www.hp.com/. I used to have an obsolete HP printer and was able to find information for it(especially about updated drivers) very easily. Despite HP's huge and diverse product set, you can get at this info in very few steps, and it's obvious where to start, even from their home page.

-- liz

Comment: Eric Scheid (Jan 8, 2002)

It's been noted elsewhere that you can search Microsoft's support site via google just by adding "site:support.microsoft.com" into your query. It's apparently better.

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