Developing a little Help with our friends…

Developing a little Help with our friends…

FinancialForce
Debbie Ashton

A vital part of any application, especially a business app that will be used by many different people of different capabilities and background, is the Help system. CODA prides itself on its online, context-sensitive Help functionality for its on-premise applications, so we were determined to produce the same if not better for CODA 2go on the Force.com platform. Gareth, from our award winning Technical Documentation team, tells how we did it…

Our overall objective To produce effective, context-sensitive online Help for the CODA 2go product that merges seamlessly with the online Help provided by the underlying Salesforce CRM application. • From a user’s perspective, the information provided must be clear, concise and easy to navigate. • From CODA’s point of view, the solution must meet our customer’s expectations, avoid duplication of content and be relatively efficient to maintain and localize.

The challenge The existing solution for creating custom Help provided by the platform is suitable for the addition of custom fields or objects to an existing Salesforce implementation. However, to produce Help for an enterprise-scale software application suite such as CODA 2go presented some challenges. In particular these included: • How to create a cohesive Help system, including Table of Contents, Index, Search and Glossary. • Topic navigation was fragmented. • How to integrate between Salesforce and CODA 2go Help. • Authoring and maintenance was time-consuming. • Localization of topic content seemed difficult to achieve.

Discussions with Salesforce Many discussions with Salesforce staff have taken place throughout the project on the best way forward, culminating in a meeting in early February 2008 where it was decided that our target of a fully-integrated Help system would have to wait until the Fall ‘08 release of Force.com at the earliest.

Short-term solution We decided to create a scalable, browser-based Help system for CODA 2go in WebHelp format that can be uploaded to the Salesforce servers as Static Content. Context-sensitive links can then be created between the CODA 2go pages and the appropriate Help topic. Users will be provided with all the usual methods of information access and navigation that they have come to expect: TOC, Index, Glossary and full-text Search. The solution will employ industry-standard best practice in terms of single sourcing and in its underlying technology (XML). This will keep the production cost down and make any future improvements easier to achieve.

Structure and content In a similar way to the Salesforce Help, the CODA 2go topics will be divided into the following main sections: • Getting Started • Setup • Using the Application • Field Reference • Troubleshooting Topics will be tagged such that searches can be filtered by user type – configuration, data entry or accounting for example.

Longer-term integration with Salesforce Help We have been giving our feed back to Salesforce as we’ve worked on this part of the project. In the longer term we hope to be able to improve the integration between the two Help systems further, with the CODA 2go product being more accessible from within the Salesforce Help environment. In the meantime, working with the Salesforce team we have created a worldclass Help solution that will enable early users of CODA 2go to use the product and learn as they go. In future it will only get better. Just shows what you can do ‘with a little Help from our friends’…

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