Re: Index entries in online help

Subject: Re: Index entries in online help
From: Deborah Hemstreet <dvora -at- tech-challenged -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2010 11:17:43 -0400

Hi Joe,

Regarding item #2, we all need to know which SW you are using to help.

Regarding how many index entries for a topic - this really boils down to how the end-user is going to look for information.

Let's take your Bill Codes example. If the information is critical to the user, you want them to find it. HOW they get there is your job. So you might do the following: (A colon indicates a second level index entry)

Bill Codes:create
Bill Codes:cancel
Bill Codes:process
Bill Codes:enter
Bill Codes:modify
==========================These next items will probably have other stuff there, for example========================
Modify:bill codes
Modify:account
Modify:client details
Create:bill codes
Create:account
Cancel:bill codes

In addition, you might want to use synonyms, this is where the "See Also" or "See" becomes important. A See Also entry is going to provide links to a topic, but also suggest the user look at another entry in the index. To the best of my knowledge it does not link to that other entry in the index.

For example, if your software used to call their Bill Codes "Processing Numbers" you might want to have "Processing Number:See Bill Codes" (However your Help SW does it)

You want to provide as many different paths for your users to quickly find the required information as possible.
If you only mention Creating Bill Codes in several topics - you would NOT index to those. However, if there is important information about creating bill codes in a particular additional topic, you would index it.

For example, I do not index any of my overview topics. They are there to provide cohesion and continuity for a linear reader. But if the overview topics are never read - no one is going to suffer. (some might argue, then why put them in at all - if the client wants it - they get it!!!)

The point is, the index points to important information. It requires getting into the mind of your end-user, and trying to think like they would. How would they look for the information?

Here is a link that might be useful for you:

American Society for Indexing: http://www.asindexing.org/site/indfaq.shtml

I hope this helps...

Deborah


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References:
Index entries in online help: From: Joe Weinmunson

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