[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: And feedback on designing an online help system?

Jason Rodrigues wrote:
> On Friday 16 March 2007 05:59, Ed W wrote:
>> Hi
>>> 2)  "tooltip" description for specific widgets on the screens.
>>> Any other thoughts?
> Perhaps nodes can be tagged with special classes?
> And an option, either inline on the page, or on the menu frame, can turn on 
> the tooltips (like, Balloons in MacOS  <= 9.0)
> All it would do is active some javascript that inspects the node under the 
> pointer, runs var help_topic_ids = /(hlp_\w+?)/.exec(node.className), 
> (className so we can reserve id= for scripting purposes)
> And then via AJAX, frames or whatever, queries a locale-specific short help 
> string, and optionally offers a link to a full longer description (in the 
> manual, perhaps?)
Tooltips are a great place to start, possibly something along the lines
of a little help icon with a mouseover.

But they only go so far. The real questions users have are about how to
use software to meet their needs. The big jump will be when we can move
from feature-based help to task-oriented help.

I think that starts with a couple key menu links: "Getting Started",
containing an overview of the organization of the system, with headers
along the lines of "The sales process", "Purchasing", "Reconciling your
accounts", etc., and the already existing "Help" link with some solid
task-oriented help that provides more detail.

The next step might be to add a help pane to the existing screens. When
you're actually in a particular screen, possibly have a help icon that
opens a task-based help topic in another frame (since we're already
using frames). Keep it visible on the window so that people can go to
other screens without losing the help contents, trace transactions from
Quotations to Sales Orders to Customer Invoice to Cash Receipt. And, of
course, a close button to make that frame go away again.

I have customers who would probably assist in creating some of the help.

For this level of help, I'd like to see graphics embedded in the
text--the one drawback to using plain text. I guess I'd prefer to see
something that at least converts to HTML, either Docbook, Wiki text,
straight HTML, OpenDocument, something...


John Locke
"Open Source Solutions for Small Business Problems"
published by Charles River Media, June 2004