RE: Bullets vs. Numbers

Subject: RE: Bullets vs. Numbers
From: "Hightower, Mary" <mary -dot- hightower -at- corp -dot- bellsouth -dot- net>
To: "'Stephen C. Gillespie'" <sgillespie -at- fedex -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 11:33:55 -0400


Does the sequencing reflect the actions of the user or the user does once at
this screen? If the steps reflect what should be done/can be done once the
user is at the screen, then numbered steps are the most user friendly way to
go. There should still be a sequence of steps the user follows once that
screen is reached, no matter how he reached it.

I am a big supporter of information mapping and usability. Adding numbers
to the steps makes it much more clear to the user that these are 1) steps to
be taken as opposed to a standard bulleted list that may or may not be paid
attention to, 2)items that must be done in a sequential order or something
bad will happen and 3) to draw the user's eyes to the steps.

I'm not sure why your writer is pushing for bullets, but I believe the
correct and more usable way to present the information in numbered lists.

MHO and experience.


Atlanta, GA

-----Original Message-----
From: Stephen C. Gillespie [mailto:sgillespie -at- fedex -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2000 9:07 AM
Subject: Bullets vs. Numbers

Dear Techwrl'ers:

I need your help to settle an argument with a writer in our group (yeah,
I'm the editor!). The issue is with bullet lists (versus numbers) for
all procedures in a software user guide.

The manual is packed with discrete little tasks, each connected to a
screen in the system. The problem (IMO) is that all steps are bulleted
(vs. numbered).

I maintain that each task MUST have (some kind of) sequence, i.e.
proceed (usually) linearally to its end - the goal of the task (i.e. why
the user wants to be there in the first place). Of course, I'm fully
aware of the variety of style found in documenting complicated tasks:
conditional action; also nonsequential action: continuous,
time-dependent, and concurrent (see "Procedure Writing: principles &
practices." Wieringa et al. Coloumbus: Battelle Press, 1993 for an
excellent study).

There's SOME of this in this manual, but certainly not ALL.

The writer, a long-time purveyor of the information set, argues that the
information (specifically each screen & task set) may be accessed from
'so many different places and points in the system,' that there's really

Finally, my response is that such a system (represented by the
documentation) would be UNteachable, UNusable, UNworkable, even
UNknowable! (and this is a very old, reliable FedEx sys).

I don't want to be an autocrat (my way or the highway!) here, so any
rational advice is appreciated.


Steve Gillespie
FedEx editor
Memphis, Tennessee

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