Re: Sloppy writing, sloppy thinking

Subject: Re: Sloppy writing, sloppy thinking
From: "Michael West" <mbwest -at- removebigpond -dot- net -dot- au>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 09:34:29 +1000

Andrew Plato wrote:

> Actually, what I see a lot more of these days is poorly focused
> documents. There is a tremendous amount of energy poured into sections of the
> document that describe simple commands and menus, and then detailed technical
> information is thrown into a poorly formatted appendix. A clear indication that
> the author did not understand the material, and was unwilling or unable to
> learn it.

I agree (!), but poor focus and weak structure can be the result
of numerous things -- maybe shallow subject-matter knowlege,
maybe failure to analyze the audience need, maybe

I certainly share Andrew's dislike for those menu-oriented
approaches to user-guide oraganization: "This menu
contains these commands"; "This toolbar contains these
buttons"; "This button does this, that button does that";
"This window has these things in it"; and so on.

This is a very common way of "documenting" an interface,
and almost never the best way, especially when it is a
poor substitute for task-based instruction. It is an exercise in
list-making and cataloguing. It's like writing restaurant reviews
while sitting at home reading menus and advertisements,
and never actually ordering a meal.

Usually, the better way is task-oriented: "To achieve this result,
follow this procedure." And to do that properly requires an
undertanding of what your users want to achieve.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia


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