RE: Smart Help Experiences (long)

Subject: RE: Smart Help Experiences (long)
From: Pam Mandel <pmandel -at- nimble -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2000 09:40:08 -0700

I spent two years building one of those Answer Wizard files. It's a very
labor intensive process but it was a big win for us. I worked very closely
with three others on it - two devs and a tester. I did the language
indexing, compiling, initial testing, and plenty of other things. It was NOT
easy. And localization of that feature is another story all together.
I can tell you about my experience offline if you like, it would take me all
day to write an answer that addresses your question - mail me directly.
In the meantime, there is a boxed product put out by Wextech called
AnswerWorks. I rejected in as a replacement for V2 of my Answer Wizard file
because the version I reviewed did not have a user editable vocabulary. It's
a bit more mature now and may warrant another look. Plus, I think they've
got some built in language support now. Check that out.

> 1) How your programmers implemented the system.
They just dropped the .aw file in the build. There was a lot of work to
change the UI since we built the Answer Wizard box in to our help pane, I
wasn't involved in that. They asked me a lot of questions about the
behavior, which I couldn't always answer.

> 2) How you revised your writing so that the help topics work within this
I made sure the topics actually answered questions. I did a lot of
developmental editing early on. The writers were used to writing in order to
document a specific feature, but I went around asking them how the user got
there - what were they doing that made them need that topic. They liked that
a lot :-).

> 3) How you feel about assigning personality to agents (from what I gather
> they are universally hated, but maybe providing one as an option wouldn't
> hurt . . .)
We just used a box, no character, no personality. No problem.

> 4) Any other insights or comments that you may have are also welcome!
Labor, labor, labor. This was not easy. BUT I really enjoyed the project.

As I said, I'd be happy to talk offline. I have a LOT to say about this but
it's all personal experience. Don't want to clutter up this thread with a
lot of useless opinions...

Pam "used to be a wizard, now I'm just a manager" Mandel

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