English 773: Help project

For your next project, you have two options, both of which are discussed below. The last section lists the requirements for either option you select.

Option 1: Tutorial

One option for this project is to write an elaborative, instruction manual–style tutorial that teaches your users the most important tasks and frequently used features of a software application through hands-on practice with simulated information. After completing the tutorial, your users should be able to take the skills they learned from working with the sample files and apply their new knowledge to their own real work.

If you choose this assignment, consider writing a tutorial for software you know, are comfortable with, and have access to. To write such a tutorial, you must understand the software you’re documenting, typical workflow with the features of the software you're documenting, and its common functions well enough to provide your reader with meaningful material.

Audience analysis is crucial. To keep the tutorial as task-oriented as possible, you’ll need to choose the proper audience and pick a set of tasks that makes sense for the given audience to perform with the software. You should write the tutorial so your targeted users could actually use it. In doing so, this project will have more meaning, you will have access to real users for input and feedback, and the resulting product will be a stronger portfolio piece.

In addition, you must give your users something realistic and relevant to create. Thus, you will need to give your users sample materials to work with. You could supply a separate data set (as with the RoboHelp tutorial you completed for class) or have your users type all the sample data (as with the sample Quicken tutorial posted on the website). Finally, review your class notes and chapter 2 of our text, which offers great suggestions for creating tutorials.

Option 2: Help

For this option, you can pick a software application that comes with a default manual lacking task-orientation, with prose documentation, with reference documentation only, or with no documentation at all. Or perhaps you wish to document software for a specific use, such as a particular way a business or organization uses software to perform its tasks.

The toughest aspect of this assignment might be finding qualifying software. You don’t want to pick too large or small a program, or you will have trouble managing the project. If you don’t have an application in mind, search through freeware and shareware sites or comb through apps on the Google Play Store, Apple Apps Store, or Microsoft Store, and then download and experiment with a several programs to find an application that you feel comfortable using, that lacks reasonable documentation, and that offers enough substance to write about.

Of course, you will need to create task-oriented Help that is suitable for your audience. Most of your Help system should consist of procedures, though you may want to include some tutorial or reference material or both, depending on your target users. Barker’s text and the Microsoft Manual of Style will offer insights to assist you with your writing. Looking through well-written Help documentation will prove useful, as well.

Project requirements

Regardless of the option you pick, your project must contain at least 25 topics and 2 books, and it must give your audience appropriate information to teach them how to use a piece of software or to assist them with tasks they will need to perform with the software.

Above all else, your material must be usable. Your document must contain coherent organization, accurate step-by-step directions, and clear and concise writing. If your users can’t actually use what you write, they will be upset with you, your documentation, and ultimately the product you’re supporting. Accordingly, your writing should meet all the qualities of excellent technical communication, as well as adhere to Microsoft style and to the guidelines discussed in class and our main text.

You may choose Microsoft HTML Help, WebHelp, or Responsive HTML5 as your target format, selecting the option that would serve your users best. You're also welcome to use RoboHelp 2015 or RoboHelp 2017 to complete the assignmernt. You'll need to include all the necessary Help components we have discussed this semester, such as a well-organized contents, a well-sorted index, appropriate screen captures, a consistently applied style sheet, and appropriate fonts within a font set. You’re welcome to include additional features, such as skins, browse sequences and expanding hotspots, if they add to the design or usability of your online document.

On the due date, you will submit the entire project folder. The folder, of course, should contain your generated Help system. If you complete a tutorial and it has an external data set, you also need to submit your data set. Finally, be prepared to discuss your Help system with the class on the due date.