Reading Usable Help
@UsableHelp on Twitter
Gordon R. Meyer
Keyword access to websites
Cabel Sasser writes, in Japan: URL's Are Totally Out, about his observations that search terms are beginning to replace URLs in advertising. That is, instead of an ad including a website address such as "www.usablehelp.com" it shows a text input field containing "Usable Help" and a Search button.
Given the complexity of some URLs, this is probably an easier way to remember how to get to a site, but it does certainly depend on the search engine giving prominence to the advertiser's intended destination. Google, of course, does a pretty good job of this already. (And with keyword advertising to supplement the print ads, you can probably ensure even greater success.)
The fascinating Google Hot Trends webpage often includes URLs, so it apparently isn't uncommon for users to type fully-qualified and legitimate addresses into a search, even though it inevitably results in an extra click to get to the real destination.
This idea can be applied to onscreen Help by giving users search phrases instead of hierarchical paths to specific topics. In the manual for the MacBook Air, Apple provides search phrases for the user to enter into Mac Help.
If you're an Apple Help author, use the ExactMatch feature to ensure that the best pages for the suggested phrase are shown at the top of the results list. Information about implementing ExactMatch searching is in the latest revision of the Apple Help Programming Guide.