RE: Follow order of widget on screen, or logical order for proced ures?

Subject: RE: Follow order of widget on screen, or logical order for proced ures?
From: Chuck Martin <CMartin -at- serena -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 11:32:08 -0800

> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Castro [mailto:thetechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com]
> Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 10:13 AM
> Subject: Follow order of widget on screen, or logical order for
> procedures?
> I have an interesting quandary. I'm creating procedures for
> completing tasks
> using our application. The users are novice computer users
> (hospital workers).
> The user interface seems to have more emphasis on looking
> pretty and balanced
> than on being usable. Therefore, the logical order that
> someone would complete
> tasks doesn't map directly to the physical placement of
> screen elements.

And this is different from what many of us face how? :) (Ouch. Did I
really say that?)

> So, which is better? Put the procedure in the order of
> widgets on the screen?
> Or put the steps in a logical order, and have the user
> bouncing around on the
> screen looking for the corresponding widgets? (All of the
> widgets are right
> next to each other, so it's not like the user will need to
> scroll around
> looking for them.)

> I've opted for putting steps in a logical order, since we're
> dealing with users
> who like to have a straightforward explanation. But the QA
> folks want to have
> the steps match the screen layout.

I would agree with you. And I might go a step further: With each step, I
might add an illustration. I might design the illustration in this way: I'd
do a screen shot. I'd fade all of the screen shot except for the particular
widget that was being referred to in the step. I probably would reduce the
size somewhat too, because the location of the widget is the critical
information, and the location can be identified with a quick scan of a
smaller image. I might also add a small callout to the non-faded area. Or I
might put the image next to the step, say, to the left, with an arrow from
the step number to the non-faded area in the image. Each step would then
"point" to the area on the screen where the step applies.

Yeah, so the doc might have more pages, and more white space. But the users
will better be able to do their job. Or, at least, better be able to follow
the docs to do their job; they'll still be saddled with the poor software

> I know, I know. It'd be better to get the programmers to actually *do
> something* with the UI review that we paid a specialist to do
> on our software,
> but we all know that's pie-in-the-sky.

Isn't it sad that your company paid a specialist to tell them what you
probably (hopefully) already did, and then failed to act on what they were

But it's not pie-in-the-sky. Read the case studies in Alan Cooper's "The
Inmates are Running the Asylum," and you will see instances of companies
actually revising their interfaces to benefit users--and capturing not only
critical praise but larger market share.

Chuck Martin
Sr. Technical Writer, SERENA Software

"People who use business software might despise it, but they are getting
paid to tolerate it....Most people who are paid to use a tool feel
constrained not to complain about that tool, but it doesn't stop them from
feeling frustrated and unhappy about it."
- "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"
Alan Cooper

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