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Online Help Style Guide

Navigation: Introduction to online documentation guidelines

Objectives of good online documentation

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The objectives of online documentation are:

Accurate

Complete

Clear

Easily located

Single sourced

Task oriented

Minimal

Economical

 

Accurate

Above all, online documentation must correctly describe the software application.  Mistakes in documentation confuse users and hinder the users' ability to use the system.

 

Complete

Online documentation must cover all topics that users need to know to use the product effectively and efficiently.

 

Clear

Users must be able to easily understand the documentation.  In particular, individual topics must be quickly read and easily comprehended by readers.

 

Easily Located

Users must be able to easily find the documentation they needs.

 

Single Sourced

"Single sourced" means that a topic or a particular piece of information is written in one place and used where required.  For example, a topic might be used in online documentation, a user manual, and an installation manual.

 

Task Oriented

Online documentation focuses on tasks that the user needs to perform.  Every piece of information must support user tasks. Otherwise, it should be removed from the documentation.

 

Minimal

Minimalist documentation focuses on the tasks the user needs to perform.  The documentation contains only the information the user needs.  Minimalist does not mean the documentation lacks necessary detail.  It does mean that the documentation does not contain extraneous information.

 

Economical

Documentation is only one of many deliverables produced by a project.  It is not the most important.  Therefore, technical writers must produce documentation efficiently.  

 

Related Information

Minimalist Documentation