RE: Images in help systems

Subject: RE: Images in help systems
From: "Glenn Maxey" <glenn -dot- maxey -at- voyanttech -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 08:57:23 -0600

Yeah, I know I'll get flamed for this and that it goes against the
advice of two other postings, but I put nearly as many images into the
online help as I do into a printed manual. (If I'm doing
single-sourcing, then they all go in.)

My reasoning is that online help provides multiple ways of getting to a
single topic where the image might appear. Whereas the topic might
contain useful text information, if it is lacking the image, the users
can't always relate that information to WHERE it should be applied.

An image in the help system does two things:

1) It can tell people where to look to apply the information contained
in the clear text. "The option for Fritz resides in some Helga dialog
box, to the left and near the bottom. The text tells me how to call
Helga, so I can get immediately to where I need to be for Fritz."

2) Even when the topic with the image was reached through
context-sensitive help, the image provides a warm-fuzzy feeling to the
reader that they are indeed on a topic that relates to what they are
seeing in the program.

Another argument is that users can more easily read "passed" or "over" a
redundant image without it bothering them than they can extrapolate from
clear text that the information relates to a given application dialog

A lot can be said about the visual memory of humans. An image of a
dialog box can convey lots of information even without reading its
words. (The shape of a dialog box, the number of items in it, and its
layout all convey meaning to differentiate one dialog box from another
when glanced at.)

The one piece of advice about using those "redundant" images is that
they should probably be near the bottom of the topic in online help.
Front load the topic with the pertinent "new" information and put what
others would call "redundant" near the bottom.

Glenn Maxey
Voyant Technologies, Inc.
Tel. +1 303.223.5164
Fax. +1 303.223.5275
glenn -dot- maxey -at- voyanttech -dot- com

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Darren Barefoot [mailto:Darren -dot- Barefoot -at- capeclear -dot- com]
> Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2001 3:40 AM
> Subject: Images in help systems
> 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.

> 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.


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