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On-Line Help

On-Line help has traditionally been seen as the tool which everyone went to when they got stuck, then could still not find the answer they were looking for! Whilst this was true in the early days of on-line WinHelp; things are much better these days.

On-Line Help development tools are now very advanced, meaning you can almost always have a single source of information, which you then recompile into the appropriate format, depending on how you want to deliver it. It is possible to "click a button" and produce a set of content-sensitive on-line help; or a traditional user manual from the same set of data.

You can now use technologies such as re-usable content, so chunks are automatically copied into a process or a procedure whenever it is needed. This ability to re-use content can be a great benefit - especially if you are producing task-based instructions which have a lot of common steps or messages.

One of the old problems behind Windows Help format was the difficulty of producing conditional output. With a bit of setting up, you can produce a bespoke on-line help application, based on extracting relevant information from a much larger database.

A good help file must start with a total awareness of how a user will use the system. Because users come with different levels of skill and confidence, on-line help must provide different pathways to the information.

One common criticism of on-line help is that it is good at showing small chunks of information (i.e. single topics), but  poor at providing an overall picture of the system or user tasks. We can overcome this common problem, by creating Overview (task-based) sections or extra training files.

To prepare the most effective on-line help, we need to be involved during the development phase of the software. In this way, we can evaluate the on-line help as the structure of the software is put in place ideally in accordance with each major software build. Our appreciation of user and documentation ergonomics and your technical knowledge - partners in the development process mean we can learn from each another.

Our On-Line Help Experience

We have produced on-line files for a wide range of applications - some ranging from as little as eight screens, others as large as 500.

The first help files we created ran under Windows 3.0!

Red House Consultancy Services Ltd
The Old Post Office, 10 Badger Lane, Blackshawhead, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 7JX.
Phone 01422 846 846
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