Request for Ideas (Long)

Subject: Request for Ideas (Long)
From: "Beilby, Margaret" <MBeilby -at- ebuilt -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 10:09:07 -0800


I have an interesting dilemma, and now seems like a good time to throw it to
you for your ideas. I have a group of Java developers who are using Tiles
technology to develop the user interfaces for web-based applications.
Basically, this means that the system dynamically generates the UI for each
page based on some criteria (such as user type, action, permission level,
and so forth), and that two pages with the same name and function can be
entirely different, depending on the criteria used to define them.

This presents quite a challenge for an online help system. It's not too bad
when a single criterion is used to define a UI page. However, gets really
sticky when two or more criteria (which is the norm) are used. I've looked
at what RoboHelp can do and, at first glance, it seemed like information
types was the solution. However, Web Help doesn't support it--so much for
that! ForeHelp is out of the question (for obvious reasons), and I'm not
familiar enough with Web Works to know whether it can support something like

To date I've come up with a few ideas:

1. Give the developers the HTML files for the online help and let them
figure it out. ;-)

2. Create version of online help for each criterion. :-(

3. Use custom JSP tags in the online help HTML files to set the conditions
for what to display on the online help page. This would mean customizing the
HTML files after they've been compiled.

4. Create a database of online help elements and use an XML configuration
file to pull the required help pages together.

I am leaning towards the database solution because, in the long run, it will
probably be more flexible and less labor intensive.

What do you think? Any ideas and suggestions are welcome.

Thanks for your help,

mbeilby -at- ebuilt -dot- com

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