RE: Task-based vs. descriptive online help

Subject: RE: Task-based vs. descriptive online help
From: Steve Shepard <STEVES -at- YARDI -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 7 Mar 2001 10:25:09 -0800

Christine writes:

>I'm revising a help system (specifically, Webhelp) that is mostly what I
>think of as "guided tour" online help: big screen captures from the
>application that you click on if you want to know what a particular
>interface element does. Click on the Name field, and you get a little popup
>blurb explaining that the user's name goes there, etc. I'm told the help
>system was built from a spec.

>My own inclination ("overwhelming urge" might be more accurate) is to
>revise the help radically and focus it on user tasks. If I do this, I see
>two options for the "click to see what this button here does" sort of
> (1) Remove it entirely.
> (2) Put it in topics separate from the task-based topics, and link to

In our old WinHelp (we now use Frame/WWP to produce MS HTML Help) we made
extensive use of context sensitive help and it was primarily referenced
base. Hit F1 and it would jump to a definition of the field your in. Mixed
with that was some task based info. It was a real hodge podge and a
nightmare to maintain all the Context Help IDs both in the program code and
in the Help project.

What we do now is take the User Guide (which is task based) and add
reference info with the conditional tag of HelpOnly. We no longer assign
Context Help IDs at the field level, but the form level. When the user hits
F1, they are taken to an short overview of the form with a list of jumps to
related tasks and additional jump to field definitions. We felt that the
primary need of the users was to complete a task, the secondary needs was
more indepth info on fields and the like.

It looks something like this:


Invoices track payables, financial transactions that either document
payments already made or that require future payments. Examples of
payables include payments to tenants and owners, commission payments
to your business, and monthly service bills. The program gives you
several ways to record and generate payables, then the program
automatically updates the tenant, vendor, and general ledgers. If
desired, you can print checks directly from an invoice to pay it

You can record payables in the following ways:

*You can record payables individually for situations such as one-time
charges from vendors, vendor credit memos, and bank adjustments.

*You can record payables in batches that can be reviewed before
posting for payment.

*You can record recurring payables to generate periodic invoices
for fixed amounts such as monthly bills or mortgage payments.

Recording a Single Invoice
Producing a Check Directly from an Invoice
Recording Credit Memos
Recording Adjustments

Payable Invoice Field Definitions

Steven Shepard
Manager, Documentation Group
Yardi Systems, Inc.
819 Reddick Avenue
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
steves -at- yardi -dot- com


Develop HTML-Based Help with Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 ($100 STC Discount)
**New Dates!!** San Francisco (Apr 16-17), San Jose (Mar 29-30) or 800-646-9989.

IPCC 01, the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference,
October 24-27, 2001 at historic La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

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