RE: Why do you need a nav system?

Subject: RE: Why do you need a nav system?
From: jgarison -at- ide -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 11:12:02 -0500


In my case, I had a 900+ page help system, and I defy you to find ANYTHING
using the little books and pages icons. While we were cannibalizing the old
html files into the new one, we had to add the search feature to the old set
of files so that we could find stuff - even though we KNEW it was there, it
took us forever to find.

While Deva operates in a default mode of indexing only <Body> contents, you
can add metatags to specify synonyms.

In my situation, the TOC was awful and would only get worse and more useless
and ineffective. Going to a search capability was a huge improvement.

Your mileage may vary, depending on your content and your audience.


John Garison
Documentation Manager
150 Baker Avenue Extension
Concord, MA 01742

Voice: 978-402-2907
Fax: 978-318-9376

-----Original Message-----
From: Sue Ahrenhold [mailto:SAhrenhold -at- IpdSolution -dot- com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 9:38 AM
Subject: Why do you need a nav system?

>My first reaction was "Why would you need a nav system at all?" You'd
>to ask Ben Weisner, but Deva Tools ( 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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