Re: Clickable bitmaps in online help: opinions?

Subject: Re: Clickable bitmaps in online help: opinions?
From: Kent Newton <KentN -at- METRIX-INC -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 1996 10:27:00 PST

On Wednesday, March 27, 1996 7:56 AM, Kris [kjolberg -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com]
wrote:
>Through the years, I have maintained that placing clickable screen shots
in
>online help is a waste of time for users. (This is an opinion only.)
What do
>I mean by "clickable screen shots"? Essentially, what appears to the
user
>after pressing F1 is a graphic of the dialog box. This graphic contains
hot
>spots linked to descriptions of each of the fields and controls.

>So what's wrong with this method (IMHO)? It's "interface-centric" and
not
>"user-centric." This means that it describes the interface rather than
>telling the user how to use the interface. If the user presses F1 while
>viewing a dialog box, for what kind of information is the user looking?

>description of the dialog box? A description of how to fill in the
dialog
>box? Or a more comprehensive set of tools (search, contents, menus) to
get
>to the topic, whether narrative or procedural, that the user needs?

>Opinions, please. Or, if you know of research ...

It depends on what you are trying to acheive. Ideally, you could reach a
description of the current field by pressing ALT+F1, screen instructions
by pressing F1, and the comprehensive search tools by pressing SHIFT+F1
(or some other set of key combinations). This would allow you to select
the kind of help you want.

If you are limited to what you can provide, I don't see what is wrong
with combining a clickable screen shot IN ADDITION to screen
instructions.

As for providing only search tools, I know when I'm running a program and
I press F1, I want help that is related to the screen or function I am
currently working on. I don't want to have to search for the topic; if I
did, I would run the full help function or use the manual.

Kent Newton
Senior Technical Writer
Metrix, Inc.
kentn -at- metrix-inc -dot- com


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