Alternative style for long, form-based procedures?

Subject: Alternative style for long, form-based procedures?
From: "Hart, Rowena" <Hart -at- SelkirkFinancial -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 10:14:46 -0700

Hi all,

Maybe I'm having a bad day, but I'm doubting
the value of using the procedural style outlined
in the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical
Publications in my help topics.

I'm documenting a financial ASP application. The
primary - and possibly the only -- documentation
will be the help system I'm developing. Currently,
I have planned for 150+ help topics, split into
three "levels" of assistance (general, procedural,
and field-level).

Every screen/page in the app has an average of
15 drop-down lists and text boxes. The average
user will be an experienced financial professional,
but they won't necessarily be an experienced
ASP application user.

I'm concerned that I will p***-off my users by
using the MMoSTP procedural style, i.e. "In the
Currency drop-down list, select the currency
of this transaction." I suspect that this kind
of detail is unnecessary, based on the level of
financial knowledge the product's users will have.
It also makes for *very long* procedures.

I'm starting to think that a high level procedural
style such as the following is more appropriate:

1. Click the General tab and provide values
for your investment. For definitions of the fields
on this screen, see <field-level help topic>.
2. Click the Administration tab and provide cash
flow information for your investment. For definitions
of the fields on this screen, see <field-level help
3. Click the General tab.
4. In the Ticket Status drop-down list, select Done.
5. Click the Forecast tab to view cash flows that
were generated for your investment.
6. Click Submit.

Which is better in this situation-- detailed or
high-level? What are some alternative procedural
styles that I could use in this situation?



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