Re: TOC article in INTERCOM -- things that made me go "HUH??"

Subject: Re: TOC article in INTERCOM -- things that made me go "HUH??"
From: "Michael West" <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- net -dot- au>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 14 Dec 2002 08:33:51 +1100





> IMHO, I think most TOCs in online help are unusable, unused, and a waste
of
> time.

They tend to reflect the logical structure of
the material. They are not useful or useless
on their own. Their utility depends on how well
they answer the user's needs.


> Included in my presentation was this quote from Jared Spool, principal and
> founder of User Interface Engineering (www.uiw.com):
>
> "In 15 years of testing help systems, not one test subject has used the
> TOC."

I'd suggest that whatever it is Jared Spool is testing
for is something that the TOC is not designed to do
very well.

Many users browse TOCs, especially in the early phases
of product familiarity. I know that from twenty years of
designing and evaluating online help systems and
printed materials. They use TOCs to get a mental picture
of what the application's major functional areas are.

If the TOC and headings structure is well thought out--
that is, if it corresponds to the user's view of the world--
then the user will return to the TOC as a way of accessing
detail. If the headings and TOC do NOT correspond to
the user's view of the world, then they will not use
the TOC when browsing for detail; instead, they will use the
index and full text searches.

If the heading structure is really impenetrable and
illogical, they will probably never use the help system,
and if (as is often the case) the product interface
is as badly designed as its help system, the product
is likely to be a failure.

Was Jared Spool testing good TOCs versus bad
ones? Or--as I suspect--was he testing small
look-up tasks for which the TOC is less suited
than other navigation tools?

--
Mike W
Melbourne


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References:
RE: TOC article in INTERCOM -- things that made me go "HUH??": From: jgarison

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