Re: Combined doc/help index

Subject: Re: Combined doc/help index
From: "Cramer, Kim" <kcramer -at- NCSLINK -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 9 Jan 1997 07:55:00 -0700

Suzanne A. Hosie writes:
<snip>Issue: My client has asked that the user's guide index include
to Help so the user knows the info is available, even if it's not in the
user's guide.

1. If you have done this, was it successful (measured by client/employer
satisfaction as well as customers not complaining/calling because they
can't find the info)?
2. Do any of you have ideas re how to present this to the user? I've
a few things but haven't hit on anything I really liked.

I work for a software development company that produces administrative
software for K-12 school districts. Just before I started with the
company about two years ago, they decided to eliminate the four user's
guides (no one ever used them - too many pages and clients didn't know
where to find the info) and put the information into Help. Initially,
we found that clients also didn't use the Help - it was easier to call
tech support!

So we created a multi-part plan:

1. We performed a task analysis (with the help of tech
support/training) to ensure all procedures that a client could do were
documented in the Help.

2. We had already documented all the screens and fields, but I
redesigned the Help to make it easier to use and present the info as
needed (rather than one long scrolling page per screen).

3. We organized the individual procedures into "task checklists." These
are basically lists of individual procedures that are perfromed in
sequence to complete a task. For example, the Adding a New Student to
the System task checklist contains the procedures for Adding a Student
Record and Adding a Student's Basic Data. Some task checklists have
only one procedure; some have nine procedures or more. I added these
task checklists to the Help, with links to the procedures. And all
procedures provide links to their related screens and field info, as
well as back to the task checklist. This ensures that clients know
about all of the related steps necessary to perform a certain task.

4. To give the trainers something to use when training the system (they
previously used the user's guides), we created a training guide. Each
lesson in this guide is structured around a task checklist. Lessons
provide navigation tips to locate the relevant screens, background info
that just didn't fit anywhere in the Help, and the task checklist. No
actual procedures are included. Trainers actively use the online Help
during training to make clients familiar with it. The training guide
also includes sample reports in case clients forget which report they

The result has been fantastic. Clients love it because they know that
instructions for everything they can do with the system is available in
the Help. They can either pull out the training guide or simply call up
the task checklists online. Support calls have decreased and clients
are much more self-sufficient. In fact, our Help system is one of the
major tools used by our sales staff to sell the product!

Hope this helps!

Kim Cramer
kcramer -at- ncslink -dot- com
Sr. Information Developer
NCS Education, Mesa AZ

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