Why do you need a nav system?

Subject: Why do you need a nav system?
From: Sue Ahrenhold <SAhrenhold -at- IpdSolution -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 09:37:54 -0500

>My first reaction was "Why would you need a nav system at all?" You'd
>to ask Ben Weisner, but Deva Tools (www.devahelp.com) makes a great little
>search engine that works just fine in lieu of a TOC or Index. Users can
>in words and find the relevant hit pages. It's very inexpensive, takes very
>little time to set up and maintain, and provides faster search and
>of information.

Having spent the vast majority of my career working with the design and
efficiency of reference tools, my immediate reaction to this was to hit the
ceiling. But I overrode myself, and decided to open this up as a discussion.

My main problem with the "just search" approach is that it assumes that
people know the phrase you use for a concept before they look for it. Many
users don't. And I believe that we fail in our mission if we're writing off
even 20% of end users.
For a really basic example, let's take the Search vs. Find concept. If your
product uses Find, and the user enters Search, he's going to think there's
nothing in the documentation about searching. How many synonyms should we
expect them to think of?

I don't believe that many users are ready to give up their TOCs. When I
learn a new program, the TOC is one of the first things I look at, as it
gives me a view of the structure of the documentation, and, through it, the

I have lots more ideas, but not a lot of time. But I would be glad to go on
if anyone's interested.

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