Re: Index/TOC Needed in HTML &/or Browser-Based Help?

Subject: Re: Index/TOC Needed in HTML &/or Browser-Based Help?
From: Steven Jong <SteveFJong -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sun, 21 May 2006 11:04:57 -0400

I sense a paradigm shift here. I am personally part of the choir regarding the value of TOCs and indexes, and yield to no one in the time and effort I invest in them. Nevertheless...

The way the news about Vista help was explained at work was, "no one uses online indexes any more; they only want to Google the file." We can say that lovingly hand-crafted indexes are in all ways superior to brute-force search engine results until we're blue in the face, but even though I agree, I also know that Google and its competitors have already transformed the way the average user searches for information. (And who among us doesn't use Google more than the average user?)

Now, it could be that the perception is wrong, and that users continue to expect and utilize TOCs and indexes. But just because we're experts in making and using them doesn't have any bearing on whether they're still used. All we can do is survey users to discover what they're doing today. It may well be that search engines have indeed changes the rules of the game out from under us.

Assuming it's true, how would we do things differently? We could perhaps simply pocket the time savings and stop making indexes. Is there a way to change the way we write topics, perhaps to ensure that key phrases appear explicitly? Or is even that a waste of time in a Google world?

-- Steve


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