Improving Your UI with Help Screens
Creating helpful user interfaces is a pretty important task that is often sadly either overlooked entirely or tacked-on as an afterthought.
Helpful documentation for shortcodes, widgets, plugins and themes depends on the developer. Sometimes developers create an external website to answer their most frequently asked questions, or perhaps they list some of how their functionality works on a plugin or theme store. All too often though there is no documentation and that’s not very useful for the users who end up needing to figure out how things work.
A Better WordPress Way
WordPress comes with a built-in way to add helpful contextual menus to each admin page. If you’ve been in the back-end of WordPress you might have seen this before, it’s a small ‘help‘ button in the top right (sometimes next to the ‘Screen Options’ button)
When you toggle this button WordPress expands a full help menu.
This menu can be expanded / customized on a page by page basis so you can provide instructions or just generally guide the user as to what they are supposed to do on this page. For example you might want to:
- Document your shortcodes (for example list the applicable shortcodes admin users might find useful)
- Outline any special functionality this page might have (for example options which might affect the page, e.g if X setting is enabled it will use Y layout)
- Provide links to an external website with examples or additional help
Interested in finding out more?
I’ve written a more in-depth article on SitePoint about Customizing Help Screens that showcase how you can do this for your WordPress site. If you’re keen on providing a more helpful admin UI then this article is for you!