Order of tasks in task-based documentation

Subject: Order of tasks in task-based documentation
From: Bevan Mccabe <BMccabe -at- ALTIO -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 12:10:10 +0100


just wondering what people's opinions are on ordering sections in a manual.
I'm writing task-based documentation, and there are a variety of tasks that
have to be done in order to use our software. Our software lets you build an
application. I think it is most likely that users will jump right in and
start drawing windows, placing controls on them, etc (call this step 5). But
actually there is some configuration information which I want the users to
set first (call this steps 1-4). This configuration stuff can be done later
- after step 5, but I think it is good practice to do it first, and I want
the documentation to be arranged so as to encourage people to do steps 1 to
Also, for the people who look at the documentation before starting work,
they will be shown the correct way to do things.

So, in the contents, I could put the tasks in the order that people will
actually do them, or in the order that I want them to be done.
Every time I consider it I think it's "six of one and half a dozen of the
other", but I am tending towards the "best practice" model.

Any thoughts?
Bevan McCabe
Technical Author, Altio
T: +44(0) 20 8580 4500
F: +44(0) 20 8580 2050
bmccabe -at- altio -dot- com


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