Web content: When is help not helpful?

So, a minor rant to all folks and ‘bots out there who build websites. I just spent 45 minutes trying to figure out which carrier a vendor uses to ship its products; there was a handy link on their page about “carriers” and another “shipping help”. I had high hopes that one or the other would have information on which shipping method would be used; neither even gave a hint. Please let us all not fall into the Microsoft habit of giving accurate and completely useless answers to questions. When you set up a help page or an information page, please think about what information the person who came to that page might be desiring and offer complete, accurate, AND useful information.

An example (one I have been guilty of) “what would it cost to have you fix my broken computer?” answer: 85 dollars an hour plus parts. This is a perfect example of a Microsoft answer; it is of no use to the owner of the broken computer. A better answer would have been $45 (from a recent repair I did); a good answer would be (again from that incident), I will have your computer back to you in 3 days by noon with a charge of $42.50 for labor and $2.50 in parts for a total bill of $45.

While very little of the information is important to me (the technician), the timing of the return of the product may be as big a part of the expense to the user (who was without that computer for a few days) as the dollars and cents; and, the actual cost is far more useful than my hourly rate or the notion of some undisclosed fee for parts. Similarly, the company that is shipping me parts for a client repair tells me when I can expect the product but not which carrier; this is important because some carriers deliver in the morning, some in the evening, some to P.O. boxes and some only to street addresses and some charge more for residential than business deliveries.

Please think about (or get help thinking about) the audience and what kind of answer is helpful to them; why else have a help page or an information page?