Re: Hypertext?

Subject: Re: Hypertext?
From: Bonni Graham <Bonni_Graham_at_Enfin-SD -at- RELAY -dot- PROTEON -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 1994 15:03:00 EST

Steven Owens asks:
So I'd like to hear from anybody out there who's had an opportunity
to put a hypertext system in place, with their own software or with a
commercial turn-key solution.
End of original post

Well, here's my nickel's worth (inflation, you know):

1) Find out what kind of information your users expect to find online. Do they
want reference info (field descriptions, data entry hints, etc.)? Do they want
procedures? etc.

2) Decide what level of detail you're going to offer. I usually base this on
the complexity og the dialogs -- if they're really complex, or dynamically
created, use item-level help (i.e., one help topic for each radio button set,
list box, entry field, push button, etc.). If they're simple, use dialog-level.

2a) If you're going to use item-level help, include a topic that describes the
entire dialog's purpose (briefly), then provide a "backward" reference to it,
when possible.

2b) Also if you're using item-level help, try to write only one topic for
commonly used elements like OK buttons. NOTE: Since these topics will be
linked to many screens, you won't be able to provide the backward reference
mentioned in 2a.

3) The average user using a default-sized help window will page down maybe two
or three times before giving up -- try to make sure you don't have more "pages"
than that. BTW, the info in this step is anecdotal -- I don't have any hard
numbers to prove when users will give up paging through a single topic.

4) Try to make your help topic titles the same as the labels of the items they
describe. This becomes difficult when the item you are trying to describe does
not actually have a label (it may have a name, but the name does not appear in
the dialog).

That's all that comes off the top of my head. I'm probably missing really
obvious chunks, but hey, that's why we have lots of people posting! Hope it

Bonni Graham |
Technical Writer |
Easel Corporation, ENFIN Technology Lab | Never tell people how to
Bonni_Graham_at_Enfin-SD -at- relay -dot- proteon -dot- com | do things. Tell them
President, San Diego STC | what to do and they will
| surprise you with their
NOTE: apparently my email address needs | ingenuity.
to be typed exactly as it appears here, |
punctuation and all, or the system gets | --George Patton
upset. |

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