Summer has descended like a heavy wool blanket. One day it was spring and the next summer. No, I’m not kidding, we had one glorious beautiful day of Spring. It was cool, it was slightly breezy, and it was definitely Sunny. Now it’s in the 90′s (and yes, I understand it’s still May), but apparently Mother Nature has decided that heat, thunderstorms, and wind are for us.
As the week wears on I have been pulled out of my furious work-a-holic fervor in order to meet a deadline to focus on the fact that the holiday kicking off summer is here. So, instead of posting the next article of Creating Online Help – Fun with Templates, I have decided to breath a little a make plans for some time off. After all, good writers know when to give the gray matter some play time in order to let the endorphins run and rejuvenate the creativity. This is a good a time as any.
So far we have discussed Online Help Design from which product to use to the look and feel to the color scheme. Last week our Online Help talked about what we expect to see when everything is put in place for the Online Help for Scrivener for Windows.
Online Help End Result
- A left hand navigation pane that lists the topics in the help.
- A main content pane that displays the content (e.g., topic) selected from the navigation pane.
- A Glossary pane.
- A print button for those instructions or cheat sheets that are long and need quick referencing.
- Color scheme — based on the current site branding guidelines.
The next step in Creating our Online Help System is to begin at the end. So far we have found a product to document (Scrivener for Windows), defined the basic look and feel based on the existing software, and started the research to figure out what the software does. You did do the research right? So where do we begin?
Begin at The End
What’s the best way to create something? To know what the end result is. I mean, how can you create a cool hybrid car if you don’t visualize what it looks like when it’s complete? Same with an Online Help System, or a web site, or a Blog. You must first identify the end result before you can set requirements defining it.
Before we write one word, we must first ask a series of questions to know what the expected end result is.
Creating Online Help Part One described finding the subject to document and the questions to ask before starting the Project. In this case, we’re going to document Scrivener, software for writers. Before we lay the foundation, I want to take a moment to delve into the components of a good help system.
Online Help Components
Every good help system has a minimum of 4 key things:
- Search (natural keyword search)
Our help system will display the Content first and foremost on the right with a left hand navigation. At the top are buttons where the user can access the Glossary and Search feature. Breadcrumbs are not my favorite, but with a deep and complex system it is another easy way for the user to navigate through the topics. In this case, I’m going to label breadcrumbs as TBD. Let’s see how it looks first then decide.
This is the first in a series of posts about creating an Online Help System. A lot of people are still confused by what online help is, as well as how to create the help and deploy it. Over the next few weeks I will show you how to create an online help system from the ground up. I will show you all the parts and pieces that go into deciding what to create and how to get the results for the end user.
Choosing a Help Project
Prior to learning the basics and setting the foundation, we have to identify what needs our help. In this case, Literature and Latte have graciously agreed to let me use their software Scrivener for this demonstration. Almost anything can be documented and deployed via an Online Help system, however, I find the most challenging and rewarding projects to be Software products.
It has been an unusually cold winter and while deadlines have come rushing in, it’s time to take a look around and dust off the old blog, posts, and potential up coming posts. In short, much like spring cleaning the house, your blog and web site also needs a good cleaning. I recommend that sites be looked at twice a year. And what better time then during your annual spring cleaning.
Technical writing is always a challenge when deadlines loom. Inherently things just don’t go as smoothly as they should or could. So I have spent the better part of the first 6 weeks of 2011 troubleshooting, pulling apart documentation hunting for gremlins, then tweaking it and putting it back together. We made it better, stronger, and in the end the users are highly impressed with the online help.
Well, it’s that time of year where everyone is enjoying the season and visiting with friends and family. I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you to all my friends, family, and loyal readers. I appreciate the support during this very hectic year which has kept me extremely busy.
The deadlines and the holidays gives me little time to breathe, but I find at the end of the day I’m enjoying every minute of it.
Time of Reflection
Despite the trials of the last year, I have learned not only am I dedicated to my fictional writing, but with a little patience and structure, I can find time in which to carve out a daily time to focus on the novel and still maintain my commitments to my current assignment.
Although I am behind in the next segment of building an online help system, I am making progress in meeting deadlines for my current day job.
What happened to CreativeAce?
Hello everyone. Did you miss me? I want to take a moment and apologize to you for my sudden disappearance. A lot has happened in the last couple of months. Some good and some not so good.
Shortly after my last post, my site was hacked. After working tirelessly restoring the site to it’s former glory, I was hacked a second time in 10 days. Now some of you, I know, were also caught in this hacking frenzy. While I won’t point fingers, let’s just say that restoring my site for a second time took a lot longer than the first time.