Do Mobile Apps Need Documentation?

In a previous post we entertained the thought that a well-designed user interface doesn’t need any documentation. The design should convey purpose and use. But I am curious whether this is true for mobile applications. Does a well-designed user interface eliminate the need for documentation? Especially considering the wide range of user experience, device platforms, learning styles, and so forth.

I decided to make an informal survey. I picked five apps on my Android smart phone, and asked: (1) Do they provide online documentation? (2) How is the online help accessed and presented? (3) Is it useful? Surprisingly, I found that all five mobile apps provide online documentation.

Here are the results: Survey – Do Mobile Apps Need Documentation

  • Online documentation is especially useful for providing high-level concepts, and for helping users get started.
  • Once users are set up, online documentation continues to be useful for providing information about unusual situations, and new or changed behavior.
  • Mobile-friendly formats are the best (nobody wants to access browser-based help from a mobile app).
  • I like the spare, visual formats used to convey need-to-know information.

So, yes – online documentation for mobile apps is useful. There may come a day when designs are so intuitive, and users are so digitally savvy that it won’t be necessary. In the meantime, some online documentation for mobile apps does help the user experience.