Documentation Deliverables for Complex Scenario

Subject: Documentation Deliverables for Complex Scenario
From: "DWerder -at- t-online -dot- de" <DWerder -at- t-online -dot- de>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com, dvora -at- tech-challenged -dot- com
Date: Thu, 02 Jul 2009 12:24:03 +0200

Dear Deborah,

You asked "How does one have user-customizable Help?"

I have not tried it out personally, but I would look into using cookies.
If you use the session ID feature you could have users display a start
page that takes them where they left off on their last visit.

We all know that Amazon suggests titles that could be of interest. Afaik
they use cookies to achieve this. Many people are concerned about data
protection but they could set their browser to accept only selected

This function is not very widely used in online help but here it could
be useful for once.

I have searched the Adobe website to find out whether Robohelp Server
offers this feature but I did not find anything. I use an older version
of Robohelp, but unfortunately I cannot access it right now as I am
using my Apple computer until my PC is up and running again.

Adobe ColdFusion offers cookie editing features, maybe you'll find some
tricks in that section of the Adobe website.

Also, it would be nice to use server logs to evaluate how frequently the
different help pages are used. There are several programs out there that
can be used for that purpose.

As a next step, one could combine the information from the server logs
with the cookie function.  

I am curious as to the outcome of this discussion and I'd love to try
this out on one of my own projects.


Doris Werder
Technical writer (member of tekom) and state-certified translator
(member of BDUE)

Doris Werder
Technical writing and translation
English>German * German> English * Spanish> German
Electronics * IT * Politics
Jahnstrasse 8
63450 Hanau
+0049 6181 160431
dwerder -at- -t-online -dot- de


Thanks for your feedback - greatly appreciated. Yours, and the thoughts
of others coincide with many of my thoughts, but are helping to focus
and look at my options.

Question: How does one have user-customizable Help? I really like that
idea, but have no idea how it would be implemented in theory. Currently,
we are using RoboHelp V7 to produce FlashHelp. I do not see them
investing in an Additional authoring tool.

With regard to your idea for short training videos, I introduced this
idea with some difficult procedures in this current release. They were
very happy with the idea. Your thoughts made me think that perhaps we
could do something similar with the theory, but perhaps using some
flowcharts and diagrams to help users see how all the pieces of the SW
fit together.

Obviously, Business Manager is not the real name of the SW, nor is the
stated purpose. (My client was very concerned that I not share any
proprietary information if I sought advice).

What may not be so obvious is that there is a customer-side of the SW,
and an administrative side that the business works with (to work with
their customers).

Interestingly, there is no online Help for the customer, unless the
Business creates it (which they will never do). I've suggested to my
client that we offer to make a customized Business-branded Help that
they can provide for their customers, since once I make one version,
single-sourcing and variables will enable relatively easy customization
for each business using the SW. The clients liked that idea and is
currently exploring options for this.

Well, all for now. THanks for taking the time to answer.


DWerder -at- t-online -dot- de wrote:
> Dear Deborah,
> Here are a few rough answers to your questions:
> 1. Training courses for users in the beginning, before using the
> 2. Have all the information in one large help file with a good TOC and
> index
> 3. Access to the online help via a customizable start page
> 4. You could also have this start page automatically adjust to the
> user's level of knowledge. This should be based on usage data, which
> pages has this person already seen etc.
> 5. You could offer a guided tour as part of the online help, e.g. one
> or more short training videos that should also be available from the
> start page of the online help.
> 6. The topics of the help system should always offer a brief
> explanation of "What is this all about? Why do I need to know this?"
> before the section that actually explains how to do something.
> You suggested
> "Separate help systems that connect one way (Say a theoretical
> help that links to the HOW to, but not the other way around)."
> I think this is only an option if certain groups of users will only
> need portions of the software.
> In my opinion it is always good if users have the chance to see the
> "big picture". If they don't want to they can still leave out the
> sections they are not interested in. They should be there, though, for
> those who need to know.
> As to your second question,
> "For example, if the real name of the software is Business Manager,
> and the upgrade portion is XY System, how do you feel about the
> following text? " The XY System, or XYS, manages business statuses,
> rules for achieving those statuses, and processes business activities
> against these rules. XYS is not a module within Business Manager,
> no XYS page or section of Business Manager that is labeled XYS.
> XYS is the technology that enables business processing..."
> From a user's perspective, this information doesn't seem so relevant
> to me. I would rewrite it as Geoff already suggested. A process
> running in the background is only interesting to users if they
> interact with it in some way.
> Excuse the style of this mail, I did not have time for a proper edit.
> Hth
> Greetings from Germany
> Doris Werder
> Technical writer (member of tekom) and state-certified translator
> (member of BDUE)
> Doris Werder
> Technical writing and translation
> English>German * German> English * Spanish> German
> Electronics * IT * Politics
> Jahnstrasse 8
> 63450 Hanau
> Germany
> +0049 6181 160431
> dwerder -at- -t-online -dot- de


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