Re: .net and Help

Subject: Re: .net and Help
From: "Chuck Martin" <cm -at- writeforyou -dot- com>
To: techwr-l
Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2004 16:28:37 -0800

"John Posada" <JPosada -at- isogon -dot- com> wrote in message news:230469 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-

>>I gotta ask: How is it a healthy development
>>environment where online help *isn't* part
>>of the functional spec from the git go?
>That's currently an issue being discussed as we speak :-) OTOH, we're
>VERY early in the development, so almost nothing was impacted. It's not
>even at the point of having a UI yet.

Well, if developers are talking about check boxes, then yes there is a UI,
at least in their minds. I mean, how do you know if check boxes are going to
be the right thing for users to reach their goals at that particular point?

But getting on their radar, especially the way you did, at an early stage is
most definitely a Good Thing.

>>Oh yeah, my condolences about having
>>to use RH.
>Are you kidding? Within 4 hours of walking out of the meeting, I had
>proof-of-concept 150 topic help generated from my FrameMaker document in
>my management's inbox that I created from the Functional Specs. He was
>FLOORED. He showed it to the VP of Development. She was too. I look
>great, he looked great, she looked great, and she can conclude her
>executive stakeholder presentation on Monday with an "Oh, BTW..wanna see
>the help for it?

I did a contract last summer. The client wanted me to use FrameMaker, which
I hadn't used in years. (I did just fine too.) The client also wanted an
HTML-based help system. I took WebWorks Publisher and within probably an
hour of getting it installed I had one, even somewhat customized to match
the web-based application it was documenting.

RH may be a very good tool, but the Frame version *is* a version 1.0
product, and while I've used RH for more than 10 years, I've also lost more
than my share of hair (some from frustrated yanking) because I've had to use

>>See, my comment would be to find out if this
>>new feature could be designed so that its use
>>was inherently understandable. Failing that,
>>embedded just-in-time content is preferable
>>to content that user have to take an extra
>>step or two to read.
>This wasn't a documentation meeting, it was a developer's meeting where
>the actual functionality was being do check marks get
>cleared, populated, etc. I just happen to make a comment...ya had to be

Those are the development meetings that I *want* to get into, and wish I was
in situations where I could more often. If just developers make those
decisions, the answers more often than not are whatever's easiest for the
developers themselves to program, and not what best meets users' needs.
Being there you can help drive that design. I have been fortunate enough to
be there at times, and have steered designes to be more user friendly.

I shoudl add that sometimes the answer is, appropriately, "We don't know."
That means we have to do more user research, prototyping, and testing. If
you're in a palce where all that's being done, I'm quite jealous.

P.S. What program do you use to post? You're about the only one who, when I
reply, I don't get your message "quoted," that is, indented with the ">"
symbol, and so I must do it manually to make sense. (It may be that I'm
using Outlook Express and doing this through the news server, rather than
relpying in email. But I notice also that each quoted line in your response,
unlike apparantly in other responses, ends with the "=20" characters. It's a
little side techie puzzle I'd sure like to figure out, and I'll bet it
involves how OE handles thos extra chracters at the ends of those quoted
lines, characters that may be added for some reason by your software.

Chuck Martin
User Assistance & Experience Engineer
twriter "at" sonic "dot" net

"I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. The day
may come when the courage of Men fail, when we forsake our friends and
break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day! This day, we fight!"
- Aragorn

"All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given you."
- Gandalf

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