Posts Tagged ‘polish’

Is HELP text necessary?

A well designed document assembly system NEEDS NO HELP text. Each prompt is group logically and clear.  It states its purpose and can be understood by users.  Why would anyone ever need help text?

Because it is not so simple.  In building systems, a polished dialog is a balance between information and data entry in an environment where space is limited.  The term “limited real estate” means the amount of information that can be seen in a standard window WITHOUT scrolling.  That is the real estate you are dealing with, because more often than not, the user will forget to Scroll before proceeding to the next dialog.

Now why do I care?

I care because I want all my questions answered so that the assembled document will be complete. To this end, I use headers and short prompts to fit as much relevant information in a single window.

What about the help text?

The help text is optional.  The first time you run a template assembly with HotDocs or GhostFill or Dealbuilder, you want all the help in the world, until you figure out what the author of the system means.  However, on the second, third and fourth time, you get it … and now that detailed on screen prompt is weighing you don.

The solution – tiered help systems

Our approach is a tiered help system.

  • Careful naming of prompts, headers and dialog titles
  • optional on-screen help
  • drafting tips that spawn dialogs
  • buttons that launch web pages
  • integrated resource help

This approach lets you get the help you need, when you need it, but otherwise doesn’t clutter up the real estate.

The Value of “Polish”

What is “polish” and why is it so valuable to clients? Surely if the functionality is the same, the polish is just “eye candy”, but then, perhaps not. This article explores why polish takes so much time, yet repays itself hugelyI was once approached by a young man to provide one-on-one HotDocs training, unconnected to a particular consulting project. When I asked why he chose me over the vendor-based training of LexisNexis, he said, “BECAUSE YOU GOT POLISH”. I agreed, yes, I was Polish (my maternal grandmother was from Warsaw).

This got me thinking, what he really meant. I know that I take time and care on my consulting projects to make sure the end-user experience is a positive experience, and that I make sure that the templates are readable by the content provider. I also take care to make sure that the formatting and style codes in Word and WordPerfect are consistent. My background as an attorney has led me to be detail oriented and thorough, removing any ambiguities in anything I write.

What is “Polish”

Polish begins typically when the template automation is completed (except the way I work, which is to complete the interview development before the template is automated). The typical user, creates their variables, give them each an explicit prompt (typically a long one), and then groups them on a dialog, and is ready to go.

But that is the point where “polish” begins:

  • Polish is redefining your prompts in context of the dialog to remove all extraneous words
  • Polish is adding titles to dialogs, that may include variables, depending on the context the dialog is used
  • Polish is using prefixes in variable names to indicate the dialog on which the variable will be found
  • Polish is adding dialog scripts so that only relevant variables appear
  • Polish is requiring select variables be answered and adding a rule in the prompt to indicate which unanswered variables are required
  • Polish is adding additional text to a dialog that explains further how to answer questions or their implications
  • Polish is laying out your variables in a logical and compact order that maximizes the value of the screen real estate
  • Polish is thinking about the implications of unanswered variables

Polish is unnecessary … since the templates WILL assemble without any of this being done.

The Value of Polish

Polish is not cheap. Polish can take as long as the initial creation of the variables and their prompts. I have spents tens of hours on polish for clients. But this was money well spent. Polish does not make the “template assembly” faster. What it does do is make the document assembly “more accurate” because the user fully understands the meaning of the questions and their implication. The user will not put in bad data or be prompted to enter irrelevant data.

  • The result is better documents: better because the right answers were given to the questions because these questions were understood
  • The result is faster assembly: faster because the user only saw relevant questions and the user understood how to answer them
  • The result is educational: educational, because the on screen help and linked help, plus the dialog and interview scripts guides the use as to both the relevant options and the correct answer so that junior associates and paralegals can create these documents with minimal training
  • The result is more profits: profitable, because systems can be shown to clients to encourage them to send a greater volume of work to your firm, once they see the investment you have made in delivering them an efficient service
  • The result is ancillary revenue: well built systems give the firm the option to offer the service directly to their clients or to market them as a commercial product to other law firms

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