re: Web application help?

Subject: re: Web application help?
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2001 10:09:17 -0700

re: Geoff Hart writes ... "I'd say you really don't need any specialized
tools such as RoboHTML: simply coding in vanilla HTML will work just fine"
... and ... "Because users will want to have help visible simultaneously
with the application, you should open the help topics reached via these
links in a new window, leaving the original application window visible
beneath it.."

I agree with this and wish to add that every subsequent click for help
should utilize the same window as the previous one to avoid opening too many
windows. Users don't always click the "close" button or link that should be
provided on popup help windows. Rather they many times just click on the
background window bringing it forward and sending the popup window to the
background but still open. It's best to "reuse" that window in these
instances. I also think it's best to keep info in popup windows short and
sweet and to hardly ever include further links there. This way the popup
window can be configured without button bars, etc.

It is possible to find articles on Web usability that caution against ever
opening new windows and they have a point. I'd suggest that when the link
your user clicks is definitely a request for help regarding the page being
read, the smaller-than-full-screen popup is ok. When, however it's a link
to reference or related material or the like, I'd suggest replacing the
contents of the current screen with the requested information as opposed to
presenting it in a new window. Users know how to use the back button.

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