Online help and the elimination of the printed doc

Subject: Online help and the elimination of the printed doc
From: <Daniel_Hall -at- trendmicro -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2004 09:28:11 -0800

Knowing that most all tech writers are bibliophiles, I'll ask you to try and set aside your biases :-)

I am presently pondering the possibility of purging the "printed" documentation from a product I'm documenting. (Like that alliteration? It's Friday!) Actually, we would still provide a smallish printed document, containing "Getting Started" info, as well as troubleshooting (the two times you're not likely to have access to the online help).

This is a server-based gateway security product that resides in the DMZ and is accessed remotely through a Web UI.

I am proposing a significant reduction in the printed documentation, coupled to incorporating a significant increase in the volume and detail of the online help. The current online help is mostly a re-hash of the info from the printed doc, useful, but... yuck.

We would provide per-screen help that would offer comprehensive information on the tasks for that screen, as well as providing access to a TOC, index, and search functionality. We have recently implemented a new UI standard, so I would also provide control-level help - a succinct explanation of each control's purpose along with the valid values, etc. I would also undertake to thoroughly annotate the configuration files.

Has anyone else worked on a product providing help at this level of detail? Any suggestions, comments, or warnings?

My main concern is that there is a good deal of conceptual information that the user must understand in order to be able to use the product as part of a comprehensive security plan, and it just doesn't seem appropriate to put this material into the help. I've always been an advocate of relegating that type of info to the printed docs, and keeping the help focused on task-based instructions.




Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can.
That is the only secret of style. -- Matthew Arnold

Daniel Hall
Sr. Technical Writer
Trend Micro Incorporated


Previous by Author: FW: Conversion to PDA format
Next by Author: RE: Online help and the elimination of the printed doc
Previous by Thread: Re: XML and efficiency
Next by Thread: Re: Online help and the elimination of the printed doc

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads