HTML help

Subject: HTML help
From: Hillary Jones <hillary -at- NICHIMEN -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 09:48:23 -0700

I got this message from a person who asked me to forward it to the
list if I found it useful:


I'm currently developing HTML help for a database application.
Most of our intended users have large monitors and will have
adequate room for the application and help window to both remain
open. They can, however, access the help system independent of
the application to learn and study the system capabilities.
Also, one section of the help contains links to documentation pdf

Just about everything in the HTML is also in the pdf files. I didn't
really want to do hard copy, because the users will have to do their
own printing. So, the documentation is essentially taken from the help,
organized somewhat differently, with page numbers and index. (Much
lower priority.)

I have checked out the help system in small windows. It takes some
forethought to code it in a way that works well regardless of screen
size. My biggest problem is tables, which aren't always legible if
columns are set to percentages. (We know the tables/frames are okay,
because the application users are required to run Netscape 3.0 or
higher). It is a web-based application, not just the help.

The biggest thing I've found is that you must test it any way you can
anticipate a user using it.

Other tricky issues: Useful graphics vs. load time
Deciding when an internal file link is
better than an a link to external
Clear navigation indicators so the user can
1. Know where they are in the help
2. Know how to get back to the application

Difficulty of linking the user from the
application to specific help screens
(programmers don't have time, one link
from an app screen to help, which usually
goes to the TOC of the help)
No what's this help
Lack of popups (we never have more than the
application screen and one help file
open simultaneously)

Hope this helps

Hillary Jones

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