RE: user expecttations - web-based help

Subject: RE: user expecttations - web-based help
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: Keith Hood <bus -dot- write -at- gmail -dot- com>, Erika Yanovich <ERIKA_y -at- rad -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 2 Jul 2014 12:58:54 -0400

I agree with Keith... though, I suppose it depends on the product and market and audience.

We switched away from PDFs to WebHelp, and still had lots of customers asking if they could have a printable version.

So, we're back to single-sourcing both Web/HTML5(-ish) Help and PDFs, with a home page in the distributed doc-set that lets the customer view either way, or save/print the various PDFs.

Many prefer the PDFs because they can print out and annotate, etc.

Many prefer the HTML because it allows search across the whole doc set, while PDF docs are searchable just within each doc.

Possibly, Flare has a way to make the PDF set searchable across docs? We haven't gotten around to that, yet. Our preference is to never do any post-processing that is not fully scriptable.

-----Original Message-----
From: Keith Hood
Sent: July-02-14 11:52 AM
To: Erika Yanovich
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: user expecttations - web-based help

Whatever you think users expect, give them what they actually need. DON'T just host a forum where they can post questions - that's worse than useless. What users want most of all is a help system that allows them to find the info they need *quickly*. That's why help forums are almost always a complete waste of time.

I would advise authoring the help in something that will allow you to produce a PDF or other printed documentation, even if you think that won't be needed. Later, someone may decide a print version is necessary, so go ahead and have a source that can produce a print version. And what if they can't access the electronic help because the problem is, the software won't run? In that case they'll need hard copy for troubleshooting.


On Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 9:25 AM, Erika Yanovich <ERIKA_y -at- rad -dot- com> wrote:

> Dear all,
>
> It's been a while since we've prepared help files and we now need to
> make them again. What do users expect these days? Any good examples out there?
> We only need to prepare web-based help for one SW product that will
> reside on the customer's server. Versions are released quarterly. No
> need for PDF or other output.
>
> Does it make sense to continue authoring in Word and convert, or
> author in a help authoring tool? I noticed that most help authoring
> systems have features that we already use in our authoring environment
> (such as single sourcing and conditional text) and I'm not sure it's a
> good idea to pay for them again.
>
> Insights appreciated.
>
> Erika
>

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Follow-Ups:

References:
user expecttations - web-based help: From: Erika Yanovich
Re: user expecttations - web-based help: From: Keith Hood

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