Pocket Philosophy of Contextual Help

Crafting varied, mostly small updates to the help tabs for WordPress 3.1 feels like a slow motion race against time. Iterations of the Beta version need to be in place to see what help text needs revising; any revising must be final before the string freeze in the Release Candidate. Wait to be ready to dash off blocks of text and patches. Yet, I think a philosophy of contextual help is evolving for these tabs, even with that measured urgency.

This is my personal list and a draft.

So what are the tabs looking like, and what do I hope for them, at their best? That they be:

  1. Accurate, up to date, direct, clear but also go beyond that.
  2. Crisp, engaging, friendly, light, funny, solid, personable.
  3. Short enough. I’m working on a landscape oriented laptop, and don’t want any tabs to go beyond the size of my own screen. Brevity rocks!
  4. Pointed and evocative rather than comprehensive, and that they have one, and sometimes several, specific links to the Codex, which is where the comprehensive lives and breathes.
  5. Anticipatory of the most likely problems for any given screen instead of exhaustively trying to list everything.
  6. Suggestive of doing and learning more, about themes, plugins, PHP, writing posts; they should plant ideas.
  7. Like a good meal, or more accurately a buffet with many choices. (They should also be hearty and nutritious!)
  8. Dynamically linked, to the theme one uses, to examples using one’s own domain, and eventually to more developed handbooks and pathways.

A link with more links: There are a lot of Contextual Help/Online Help writing people and resources out there.

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