TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:RE: Screen shots for online help From:"Giordano, Connie" <Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM> To:TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Tue, 19 Aug 2003 11:47:18 -0400
One other factor you should take into consideration.... Context-sensitive
help is sometimes technically difficult to implement (I have one product
that faces this issue, and it would take forever to explain why) or
development lacks the resources to devote to working on it. You may not
have the option of developing CS! In addition, where folks often complain
that on-line help generally isn't, context-sensitive generally is worse. A
CS topic that tells me what a Cancel button does is not in the least
helpful.... It's an oxymoron since it provides no context whatsoever.
When you deal with extremely complex applications, a user base of thousands
(from novices to power users), and limited development resources, you cannot
rely on "industry standards" that dictate that screenshots are wrong or
irrelevant. Sometimes it just ain't so. My novices need them, my power
users don't, so I make them available without taking up base real estate.
In the ideal world you get to design and implement all these things
according to those mysterious standards I keep hearing about. In the real
world you make do with the resources at hand, find creative solutions when
you can't make do, find out what the users need and want, and keep working
to improve what you give them.
Connie P. Giordano
Senior Technical Writer
Advisor Technology Services
A Fidelity Investments Company
connie -dot- giordano -at- fmr -dot- com
"Pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, 'cause I'm afraid
that we've been cheated here on Earth" - Clint Black "Galaxy Song"
From: Goober Writer [mailto:gooberwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2003 11:29 AM
Subject: Re: Screen shots for online help
If a screen shot EXPLAINS something, then by all
means, show it in the Help. If it's just a "you are
here" or "this is the screen" graphic, I fail to see
the usefulness... unless, of course, you are authoring stand-alone Help and
your users NEED to see a correlation between their docs and the app.
Context-sensitive Help renders screen shots for the sake of having a screen
As with anything, use common sense and think about
your users' needs. There is no law to explaining
things. Figure out what your users need and give it to them.
(because life is too short to be inept)
"As soon as you hear the phrase "studies show",
immediately put a hand on your wallet and cover your groin."
-- Geoff Hart