Re: How many options to give to readers?

Subject: Re: How many options to give to readers?
From: Christine -dot- Anameier -at- seagate -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 10:47:57 -0600

Christian Walters asked "How many options for completing the same action do
you give to readers?"

My own inclination is to just give them the menu method for completing the
action. For instance, instead of "Click the Align toolbar button," I would
have "Select Edit, Align" or "From the Edit menu, select Align."

I try to give the options that require the least memorization. If users get
accustomed to using the menus, they can easily browse the menus to find the
command they need; they just need a vague sense of what sorts of commands
reside in the File menu, the Edit menu, the Options menu, etc. If they're
relying on toolbar buttons, on the other hand, they have to memorize the
meanings of maybe twenty little icons. If they forget which cryptic little
doohickey symbolizes the action they need to take, they wind up having to
search through the docs or (if they're lucky) scrub their mouse across the
toolbar reading the Tool Tips.

When they're using the application and they've forgotten most of what's in
the docs, I'd rather have them pondering "Is Align under Edit or under
Tools? Let's see..." than "which toolbar button means Align? Is it the one
with four horizontal grey lines and a blue line, or is it the one with the
cartoon of a protractor, or is it the one that looks like a flying pig?"

This is just my opinion--I admit I have no research to back it up. YMMV.



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