unneeded index? (wasRE: What sayest me... on Worthless TC Degrees )

Subject: unneeded index? (wasRE: What sayest me... on Worthless TC Degrees )
From: Chuck Martin <CMartin -at- serena -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 11:34:13 -0800

> -----Original Message-----
> From: John Posada [mailto:jposada01 -at- yahoo -dot- com]
> Sent: Friday, March 24, 2000 11:03 AM
> Subject: Re: What sayest me... on Worthless TC Degrees
>
> oh, BOY!!! is this going to get a reaction, but...
>
> > it was my minor on my master's. Good indexing is one
> > of my hot spots. If a
> > reference book does not have a good index, it's
> > worthless as far as locating
> > information. When I am forced to use the software
>
> An index is only that useful when the content of the
> book itself is so bad that it doesn't make sense.
>
> How is needing a section of the book to find a section
> of the book a good thing.
>
> Don't get me wrong...indexes are important...only
> because books are structured so poorly. If the book
> was arranged well, the index wouldn't be needed.

I don't believe it. Pray tell how the information in a 1000+ page tome can
be organized well enough to not need an index. Are you going to search
through 20 pages of TOC to find the topic you need? Even if the book has
first a high-level TOC to get you going in the right direction, that's two
searches to get pointed to the right spot.

Some time back I saw reports on research that showed something on the order
of 2/3 to 3/4 of users turn to a book's index to get directions to the
information they need. Interestingly, the same percentages held true for
online Help systems.

To answer that question, however, is simple. There are two situations:
1. The user has read the book.
2. The user has not read the book.

In situation (1), almost no one has the memory to retain not only all the
information in the book, but the page number on which that information is
located. While some people use bookmarks or turned-down page corners to mark
key pieces of information, those don't always mark the information needed
now, but rather, information needed frequently.

In situation (2), how else is the user going to go directly to the spot that
contains the information needed? I would assert that a well-prepared index
will get a user faster to that point than any other mechanism.

--
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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