RE: Usability

Subject: RE: Usability
From: "Rebecca Downey" <rdowney -at- matrox -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2002 14:28:51 -0500


I spent three years writing user-centric manuals for installation and
troubleshooting of switches, routers and hubs; mostly without management or
imbedded software. While I've never read a good book about the technique, we
used a tried-and-true method that seemed to always put me on the right

The method was:
1. Sit with an SME and the object in question.
2. Have the SME perform each step without talking.
3. Describe aloud what the SME is doing. The SME is permitted to only nod
yes or no. If no - only then is the SME permitted to correct the writer -
but they must be brief.

Usually I wrote it up as:
Condition -
Board XYG's uplink port displays a constant red LED, even when no traffic is
shown crossing the port.

Cause -
The port has become frozen.

Solution -
Step 1: Reset the device by unplugging ...
Step 2: Examine the connection ....

Such things provided very little (if any) theory. They were designed
primarily to trouble-shoot a problem as efficiently as possible.

The only painful part of the process was getting an SME to be brief on
topics that they loved. ;)

Recently Jim Royal has provided a new idea as to how to write procedural
steps - See
for more information.

I hope this helps.
Rebecca Downey Senior Technical Writer
ITG:NBM Matrox Electronic System
1055 St Regis, Dorval, Quebec, H9P 2T4

Now's a great time to buy RoboHelp! You'll get SnagIt screen capture
software and a $200 onsite training voucher FREE when you buy RoboHelp
Office or RoboHelp Enterprise. Hurry, this offer expires February 28, 2002.

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Usability: From: Colonna, Heidi

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