Re: Looking for the Bingo (was Get to the point?)

Subject: Re: Looking for the Bingo (was Get to the point?)
From: Dan Emory <danemory -at- primenet -dot- com>
To: "Michael West" <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 05 Sep 2000 02:56:25 -0700

At 08:10 AM 9/5/00 +1100, Michael West wrote:

Dan Emory wrote:

>
> I thought it was guite clear that I was not criticizing the on-line
> help medium, but instead the predominant form that it has taken,
> namely WinHelp-style help based on a keyword/index system.
>


Apologies to Dan Emory. Somehow I've missed the point.

I still don't understand the relevance of "WinHelp-style help
based on a keyword/index system".

Can a WinHelp help system not have a well-designed table of
contents and well-placed "See also" links? Is there something
inherent in "keyword indexes" that leads to poorly designed
help systems?
==============================================
1. The "topic" list I typically see in WinHelp is an alphabetical
list of web page titles rather than a "structural" TOC as found
in printed books. This deprives users of the capability
to perceive the overall structure of the knowledge base, and thus
deprives him/her of the crucial ability to form a mental model of it.

An alphabetical listing of topics is a very crude accessing method,
far inferior to either a structural TOC or a mlti-level index.

In complex help systems,
the topic list is so long that it becomes an exercise in futility
to find what you're looking for. Often these topic titles use arcane
insider jargon, which defeats the novice (the user type most in
need of help), who doesn't know that jargon. The only way to improve
an alphabetical topic list is to make sure the first word of all procedural titles
an action word such as "Add", "Delete", "Display", or, in the case
of explanatory help pages, the first word should be a non-jargon
keyword that is descriptive of the content. But even then, the
topic list becomes nothing more than a single-level alphabetical index,
which would be considered laughable in a printed manual.
====================
| Nullius in Verba |
====================
Dan Emory, Dan Emory & Associates
FrameMaker/FrameMaker+SGML Document Design & Database Publishing
Voice/Fax: 949-722-8971 E-Mail: danemory -at- primenet -dot- com
10044 Adams Ave. #208, Huntington Beach, CA 92646
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