I’ve been asked to present a seminar to a team of writers of a large hi-tech company in Israel. The topic is one that I am familiar with; one that I have “lived” with for more than a decade. Help Authoring Tips. Fun, I thought. I began preparing the slides based on an outline one of their senior writers gave me. As I added content, I found myself expanding the base outline. Wondering if they might be interested in hearing about this topic or that.
Pulling together things that I have practiced for so long into an hour and a quarter presentation isn’t so much challenging as satisfying. Things that have become instinctive, now have to be explained. Why do I suggest this? Why do I consider this wrong? Putting a motive to an action is important and I’m not sure we do it often enough.
The presentation is in a few days – I hope to start sharing some of the information from the presentation here shortly after. I’m thinking about saving the presentation for the upcoming MEGAComm conference in February, modifying it a bit to include some other ideas and concepts. For now, I’ll say that help authoring is a very important part of technical writing. Though we still write manuals, I believe we all know that fewer and fewer people are reading them.
Many turn to videos and YouTube; others quickly access the help that is available either from within the product or online. So, having just finished a long series on The Life of a Project, I’ve decided my next series will be about help authoring. I want to keep it vendor-neutral for now, though I hope to also post about the latest versions of various help authoring tools. Maybe I can ask some of my colleagues to guest blog for those tools that are less familiar to me. For now, I want to focus on the concepts and take it from there.
I’ll probably change this list as I go along, but for now, here’s a brief outline of what’s to come:
- Design issues of font, color, size, and more
- Jump vs. a Popup vs. DHTML vs. Snippet
- The Table of Contents – Getting it Right
- Indexing Tips for Help
- Writing for Help Tips
- and more….
If you have other ideas – please feel free to offer them (or even write them up and send them to me!). For now, stay tuned – this series will begin later this week…after my presentation!