Re: Down Time

Subject: Re: Down Time
From: "Jessica N. Lange" <jlange -at- OHIOEE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998 12:58:29 -0500

Hello, Vic

Wish I'd thought to ask this question six months ago! :-)

I was in the same situation: a new product was coming along; I wanted to do
online help for it [our first ever Windows sw app, and my first ever OLH]. I
evaluated tools, joined lists, bought books, researched on the web. Today,
the product is a month away from alpha delivery, and, fortunately, the
online help is right where it should be. But, I wish....

I read the books but didn't follow the advice. Especially Deaton/Zubak's
"Designing Windows 95 Help". I didn't plan for OLH navigation. It is all far
too much like the many user manuals I've written in the past: and way too
linear for online help. How to link and associate and structure the OLH has
been my biggest problem and I've redone things many times. I wish I had
taken the time to plan things better!

I also wish I'd spent more time *designing* the thing and written a style
guide for it before I got started, instead of as I go along. I seem to
stumble over issues I've not thought about, and have to define something
new, and perhaps change topics already written about. E.g., will I use "see"
"see also" "related topics" or none of the above.

I also wish that I'd spent more time following Wm Horton's advice in
"Designing and Writing Online Documentation"---i.e. figure out the questions
and write the answers. Instead, I wrote about everything, as I'd do in a

Writing/designing OLH is *not* like writing a manual. And producing a
miniscule practice OLH doesn't prepare you for a big project!

So, if you don't have the two books I mentioned, do get them! Also, join the
winhlp-L, if you haven't. (I can send you information, if you wish).

Please summarize responses to the list. I'll be interested to hear what all
the *experienced* online-helpers have to say!

Good luck

Jessica N. Lange
Technical Communicator
Ohio Electronic Engravers, Inc.
mailto:jlange -at- ohioee -dot- com

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