Indices and not-indices

Subject: Indices and not-indices
From: "Kevin Elmore" <kelmore -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2008 15:27:30 -0500

How shaken would your confidence be if an entity's help files did not
have a proper index?

To give a little background, I help maintain various help files that
are about 8 years old. Over the years, things have gotten fairly
sloppy, especially regarding the index. Our typical MO for creating a
new help file topic is to add the name of the topic, the Document
Control Number assigned upon creation of a new document, and possibly
other keywords that seem ideal (at least according to the
administrators of the help file, since the SME does not always provide
adequate keywords).

So, in short, our index is now just another way to search for text.
I've brought this up, but there is no way we'll get a professional
indexer in to create a new index. People are now used to searching
for numbers and entire titles. Our index is a hybrid of the Table of
Contents (scrolling through the first letters of a title) and the
Search function (locating topics through using keywords). All in all,
it works for our internal users, and that is important enough.


There is a good chance that we will publish a new help file output
based on this project (hooray for RoboHelp's Conditional Build
feature). This help file will be seen by a client of ours. It would
no longer be just for our internal users.

Upon this realization, I have requested from management that we do not
produce the index. Publish only the Table of Contents and the Search
tab. I am ashamed of our index, as it really only an index by name.
It does not look professional to me.

How would you feel about seeing a help file with such an "index"? Am
I being too pedantic? My management is considering my request to omit
the index altogether, but I fear that "consistency" might win out.
After all, if it's good enough for our internal people, then what
could possibly be wrong with it?

So, I figured that I'd use my first post on this list gauging some
opinions. Would you feel comfortable providing to a client an index
using the method that I described?

Kevin Elmore

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