Images in help systems

Subject: Images in help systems
From: Darren Barefoot <Darren -dot- Barefoot -at- capeclear -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 10:39:49 +0100


An issue has recently arisen that I've been wondering about and would like
to solicit the group's opinion. As I understand it, the rule of thumb when
authoring help systems is that the average help system should contain less
images than its corresponding printed (or printable) manual. I suspect this
rule exists because:

* For installation purposes, the smaller the help system the better, and
images tend to bloat help systems. (I don't think loading time is really an
issue, as I've just tested several CHM files of radically different size and
they all sized to load at the same speed. For Web-based help systems, as
you're only loading one page at a time, load time shouldn't be a big deal
either--unless you've designed a lousy help system.)
* If there are lots of screenshots in the help system, the user may become
confused as to which is the application and try to click in the help system.

Are there other reasons for this rule? How many of you actually abide by it?
If so, what criteria do you apply when selecting screenshots for the help

Because load time is not an issue for us, we pretty much include all of the
images from our manual in our help system. Our thinking is that if they're
helpful in the manual, they're helpful in the help system. Thanks. DB.

Darren Barefoot
Technical Writer
Cape Clear Software


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