torus6.gif (1371 bytes)


cctext.gif (2384 bytes)

Services Tips Theory WebPoems Workshops Books Articles Lisa Jonathan


Designing Online Help
Internet Prose 101

Writing for Webzines

Testing to Revise

Restructuring Legacy Documents for Multiple Re-Use

Writing Effective Procedures

Adopting an Object Orientation to Improve Documentation

Designing Online Help

So You Wannabe a Technical Writer?


In this two-day workshop, you’ll learn the basics—how to design, structure, write, and manage an online help facility to help people use software. You’ll see how design goes beyond writing, to incorporate insights from many disciplines, including user interface research, cognitive psychology, and graphic design.

You’ll learn how to plan a Help facility, create prototypes, test those, and produce a final version that customers will really use from their own disk, a server, or a Web site.

As a technical writer, instructional designer, or editor, you will learn how to develop the Help facility in conjunction with other documentation, how to anticipate what’s special about writing for the screen, and how to plan and budget the work.

You will learn from dozens of examples—from character-based systems to graphic environments, delivered on CD-ROM, intranet, or Web sites. Working together with other people in the class, you will apply new ideas to the tasks of designing and creating online Help. Individual exercises, extensive readings, and group discussions supplement the workshop.

This workshop does not promote or teach any particular tool; the focus is on design principles you can apply in any situation.Here’s a schedule of topics covered:

  • Specifying the Help Environment You will learn how to create a really useful user profile, product profile, and profile of the Help environment, positioning Help in the overall flow of information about the product.
  • Designing the Help Interface You will learn how to make the main routes into Help visible, how to carve out the paths within Help, and how to design the individual window, and its components. You’ll also consider how much control to offer the user, in modifying Help, and how much Help on Help people should need.
  • Structuring the Content of Help You’ll see why structure is even more important online than in a book, and you’ll find out how to define topics at various levels, and organize a content outline.
  • Prototyping and Testing a Sample You’ll learn how to create useful menus, what to prototype, how to prepare for testing those prototypes, and how to make the most out of your test observations.
  • Writing and Designing the Content You will learn when and how to take advantage of already written documentation, how to plan paper documentation to make developing the online materials go faster, how to make graphics central, and how to adapt writing for the screen.
  • Planning and Managing an Online Help Project You’ll learn how to plan and budget a new Help project, how to track progress, create a project history, and evaluate your success.

Jonathan Price's background includes coaching help teams from major computer manufacturers in the U.S. and Japan, and working extensively with teams transforming legacy documents into interactive information systems for CD-ROM and the Web. My books on technical writing include How to Write a Computer Manual (Benjamin/Cummings) and How to Communicate Technical Information (with Henry Korman, from Benjamin/Cummings).

We are always glad to customize a workshop for a particular group or setting.  Please call Jonathan at 505 898-4912 to get more details.


Copyright 1998 Jonathan and Lisa Price, The Communication Circle
Return to our site at
Email us at