Field-level context-sensitive help for web-based applications

Subject: Field-level context-sensitive help for web-based applications
From: "Karen Casemier" <karen -dot- casemier -at- provia -dot- com>
To: "Techwr-L \(E-mail\)" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 14:17:02 -0500

Are any of you providing field-level help for a web-based application? If so, how are you doing it?

NOTE: I have done a google search on _context-sensitive help for web-based applications_ and _field-level help for web-based applications_, which is yielding mostly information about web-based help for regular applications, or page-level context-sensitive help for web-based applications. I have not been able to find any information specifically about FIELD-level help for web-based applications.

In our first prototype of a new web-based application, the developers used tool tip technology instead of true field help. This concerns me for a couple of reasons:
-Tool tips were not designed for things like 300-character field definitions. They were designed to provide a few-word description of icons. Personally, it drives me nuts using the prototype and having a big old block of text popping up that I didn't call (tool tips automatically appear when you hover over a field for a couple of seconds). I am more than happy to concede that this is nothing more than personal preference if I can find evidence to the contrary (which I am looking for as we speak).
-We cannot include links within the tool tips for more information. I think a context-sensitive field description should be informative but concise. The only way to truly do this is to provide links to additional information about concepts discussed in the definition.
-With the tool tips, we have to provide an .xls file with token names and field descriptions, which is then copied into the database. I'd prefer to retain control of the field-level help and keep it as part of the main help system, and remove the burden of updating and maintenance from the developers.

I want to make their jobs easier - currently, the only way we can envision a more appropriate type of help is through custom coding for each field. Ideally, I'd be able to do something similar to how we handled context-sensitive help with standard desktop applications - things like map files and aliases.

Can anyone provide me with suggestions or point me to some information on the web? Please cc: me directly on any responses to the list, as I receive the digest. If you prefer to respond just to me directly, I'll summarize all the information I get and post a follow-up to the list.




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