Archive for the ‘TOC’ Category

Ten important Points to Remember While Creating an Online Help

October 15, 2009


I started testing my hand with online help three years before. From then, it’s always my favourite cup of tea. There are a lot of room for logical and analytical thinking in an online help. While reviewing an online help, few points came into my mind which I believe are very vital for an online help. Here we go:

1)  Know your needs

Rather than saying know your needs, I’d say know your client’s need. The fact of being you a RoboHelp guru, it doesn’t mean that your client should be happy to accept a webhelp output from you. He may be comfortable with a .chm file. But make sure your learning curve doesn’t get affected by your client’s preferred Help Authoring Tools (HAT).

2)  Track back often with your Developers

Once the application development stage moves to freezing point, you may start your online help. But still few UI changes may occur. So better you track your developers’ path to avoid any last minute confusion.  Any client will wish to read an updated (including images) online help.

3)  Learn HTML before you start

Though you have WYSWYG environment nowadays, it’s always better to learn some html tags before you start. Most of the HATs’ will add their own junk codes. If you’re html literate; it’s easy for you to fix it in later stage.

4)  Design your Style sheet first

Before getting started with your online help, you make sure you have a standard, well defined style sheet in hand. In the middle of the process, re-thinking about a table header column style is not a wise idea. List your needs and in rare case you can include a new style (only in rare case, don’t make it a habit).

5)  Analyse and freeze your TOC

Before starting an online help, it’s always recommended that first do a research and freeze your TOC. It will help you to structure your help.  If you’re curious about single sourcing, it’s always recommended to have a structured TOC.

6)  A picture is worth of thousand words

Add images, flow diagrams in right places. But your user will get irritated with irrelevant and excess images. Showing a confirmation image with an OK button and Cancel button in the online help is not a great idea.

7)  Link the links properly

One general thumb rule for all online helps is “Write shorter, link them properly”.  Instead of writing two page lengthy instructions, give correct hyperlinks at right place. Don’t forget to include a relevant ‘See Also’ section in an online help.

8)  Add a Glossary and Index

Adding a glossary section in an online help is always a great idea. You can include smart definitions and acronyms in a glossary. Every user will like a crispy index section. Pick out mostly used keywords from every page and index it. Make sure your index keywords make sense. Adding ‘HAT’ as a keyword is a good idea than adding ‘because’ as a keyword in the index section.

9)  Hotspots and pop-ups

Giving too much of hyperlinks may sometimes backfire you. Sometimes, the user may hesitate to click your hyperlinks as he may be curious to stay within the same page. During such scenarios, introduce hotspots and pop-ups to keep your user in the same page.

10)  Get the feedback

Once your online help gets shipped with the product, don’t stay back as if you’re done with that. Try to figure out any gap between the application and your help by including yourself in the client’s feedback e-mails. You might have missed a warning message or a pre-requisite step required to fetch a row from the database.


Re-generating a TOC in FrameMaker

October 14, 2009

Recently, one of my friend who is also a TW, came across with an issue while updating the book in FrameMaker. The issue is quite simple.

She generated a Table of Contents (TOC). She has got some five chapters in a book. Later, she included some content in one of those five chapters and updated the book. Now she has to re-generate a new TOC again. But she was not able to carry out the task.

After getting an e-mail from her, I tried to reproduce the same scenario. I just wanted to get the same error message so that I can investigate the problem in detail. So, I created five dummy chapters, included in a book and generated a TOC. Now, I included some content in one of the chapter, saved and updated the book. Here is the climax. I tried to re-generate the TOC, yes, I got it without any error. 🙂

So what went wrong in her case…?

The solution was so simple:  I kept all the five chapters open and minimized while re-generating the TOC. But she closed all those chapters and tried to re-generate a TOC.  Though simple, quite annoying, right..?

She was also surprised and raised one valid query.

Should we keep open all the chapters even if we have 100 chapters in the book..?

My answer is still ‘YES’ though sounds ridiculous. Only Adobe people can give a convincing answer for this query, I believe.  🙂

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