Testing the Navigation

Like content, navigation can make or break a help system. The best information in the world is no good if the user can't get there. Navigation testing makes sure that every link goes where it should.

One of the first things to look at is the contents tree. Does every link go to the correct topic? If you're building WinHelp, the Help Compiler Workshop (HCW.EXE) can help you by stepping through the contents, triggering every link. If your contents tree links trigger macros, you'll need to test them by hand by triggering them.

Another important navigational aid is the index. Besides testing the links to make sure the topics indicated actually do pertain to the keyword, you'll want to look at ways of enhancing the index. A topic discussing turntables may have index items such as "phonograph", "lp", or "record player". With a multi-layer index, you might want to index an object by both verb-noun and noun-verb (i.e. window, closing versus closing, window). This would give both left- and right-brained people the same chance at finding the information they need.

When testing links from one topic to another, many authoring tools can help by providing a report of all links with both the source and the destination topics listed. This may be enough for preliminary testing, but a thorough test should be done before shipping by actually following every single link in the system. This is especially important for any links outside of the system, such as web pages, as these can change overnight.

Copyright 2009 by Dana Cline
Last Updated Monday, April 06, 2009
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