Re: In reference to number of steps

Subject: Re: In reference to number of steps
From: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 10:22:14 -0700 (PDT)

--- rhoggan -at- lewis -dot- com wrote:
> First, I guess I've been so indoctrinated into only using 7 steps
> (give or take a little), that when I see more I seem overwhelmed.
> Does anybody share this sentiment? Is it something our users may have
> become accustomed to?
> Second, what are your thoughts about steps in online documentation,
> specifically Help applications. I personally like to see less than
> five, because I hate to toggle back and forth between help and the
> application to complete what needs to be done. It seems that if it
> electronic procedures can be that concise, the better. Perhaps that
> involves more advanced documentation procedures. What do you all
> think?

It seems to me that in performing a procedure, one needs to do whatever
it takes to complete the procedure. No more. No less. If there are 15
steps in a procedure, or if there are 50 steps, that is really a
function of how the procedure was designed, which is not a writing
function but a system design function.

The writing function is to document the procedure, step by step, from
beginning to end. Setting an arbitrary limit of 5, 7, or 9 steps would
seem to me to lead to procedure "steps" where more than one action was
included in one step simply to keep within this arbitrary number.

I much prefer to see procedures that are one step per task. (Do this;
this happens. Do that; this other thing happens.) Of course there are
always situations where even that 'rule' doesn't work well, but that's
my opinion, FWIW.

Tom Murrell
Lead Technical Writer
Alliance Data Systems
Columbus, Ohio
mailto:trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com
Personal Web Page -

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