Index on a web-based help system?

Subject: Index on a web-based help system?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, "'Candie McKee'" <kiruna91 -at- hotmail -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000 08:55:57 -0400

Candie McKee is <<...creating an index for a web-based help system... I was
required to use Microsoft Frontpage to create the system... Can I create an
index that is not static?>>

Yup. The only good tool for doing so that I'm familiar with is HTMLindexer
( I haven't played around with this nearly as much as
I'd like to (maybe if I wrote less to techwr-l? <g>), but my initial
impressions are very positive, and I've heard good things about it from
those who are using it (including several professional indexers).

<<If I have to create the index in a static manner, should I break it into
several page or just create bookmarks to each alpha-letter on the side

The overwhelming advantage of online indexes is that you can make them
dynamic. If the index is long enough that it won't fit easily on a single
screen, then by all means, include jumps to key points within the index (at
least the initial letters A through Z, plus a special jump to a section that
indexes graphics such as icons and symbols such as { or other things that
don't fall into obvious alphabetical order). If you really want people to
love you, put the letters across the top of the screen in a nonscrolling
region so that they're always visible and always accessible for navigation
(though given that the Home key will get you back to the top of the page
instantly anyway, that's probably not crucial).

And congratulations. So few Web designers have clued in to the notion that a
true, professionally done index beats a full-text search engine every time.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

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