Re: Planning modular help for software packages

Subject: Re: Planning modular help for software packages
From: "Rick Stone" <rstone75 -at- kc -dot- rr -dot- com>
To: "Paul Hanson" <PHanson -at- Quintrex -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2006 12:35:01 -0600

Hi all

I tend to side with Paul on the bit about supplying all the help. Here's why.

I once worked as a lone tech writer for a small software company. The company sold its software in a modular fashion as well. I think there were about 15 modules that could be combined in any number of ways. It simply depended on which modules the customer wanted to buy. Upon discussing the help system approach with one of the owners of the company, I explained that we could make the help modular. He immediately shot it down for the following reasons that made perfect sense.

1. If the customer has access to all the help, actually seeing the help for the modules that aren't present might work as a sales tool to entice them to purchase the missing modules.

2. Maintaining help without concern for who has which modules installed will be easier for all involved. For me as the tech writer, I didn't have to devise paths and links to accommodate the potential missing modules. For the gentleman creating the installation package. He didn't have to determine which help modules to install depending on the purchased products. We all win.

3. Think about this one. Does it really hurt the product at all to have help available for something the user would not be able to do? For example, I was also in an environment (large call center) that had your basic level techs answering phone calls. What they couldn't resolve was escalated to the "senior" or "second tier" techs. The "senior" techs wanted their own special help file that contained the entries that they could use to override things. The kicker here is that they wanted this help "hidden from view" unless you were a member of the super secret and ultra powerful second tier support group. But really, unless you were part of this group, you didn't have the authority in the system to make these entries anyway. So what does it really hurt to make them available to all? If you can't make the entry, the information is useless anyway. Doesn't offer up a "back door" into the system or anything. ;)

Just thoughts... Rick :)

----- Original Message ----- From: "Paul Hanson" <PHanson -at- Quintrex -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2006 10:36 AM
Subject: RE: Planning modular help for software packages

You have a lot of work ahead of you and I wish the best of luck in figuring
it all out. One of the things that threw up a red flag in my mind is to
bring up the situation where your documentation already has link(s) to the
doc for a package the client may not have installed. For example, if your
client only has Packages A & B, but you have a link from B to C in the doc,
you either have to not give them the information in package C by rewriting
the content to not refer to package B <which if that connection exists, that
makes your doc incomplete> or give them the doc for package C. I document a
system that has many of these cross-system links
<> so I don't think I
could do what you are suggesting. I give our clients all the doc.


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RE: Planning modular help for software packages: From: Paul Hanson

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