Re: Sloppy writing, sloppy thinking

Subject: Re: Sloppy writing, sloppy thinking
From: "Michael West" <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- net -dot- au>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 17:22:03 +1000

Jan Henning wrote:

> A task-oriented section [of a user guide] is useful
> for finding out how to achieve a particular goal, while a separate
> reference section organized along the lines of the user interface is
> useful for finding out what a particular element does.

Yes, I pretty much agree, except that
online help and "tool-tips" is often a
better vehicle for "explaining" the interface.
And often the interface doesn't really
need "explaining" so this type of cataloguing
often a kind of substitute for real, hands-on
tech writing.

Maybe it's me, but I never have much
curiosity about what an interface object
"does" except as part of a workflow that
gets a task accomplished. If it doesn't
help me do the task I'm trying to do,
then I don't care about it. Not now, anyway--
maybe I will next week when I'm trying to
do something else.

As a user, I prefer to get a very high-level
overview of the interface, just enough for
me to develop a mental construct that characterizes
what the application can do and can't do.
Beyond that point, I want instructions for
performing tasks. And I think this is a fairly
common user approach to a tool -- though
certainly not the only one. There *are* those
people who need to sit and read through a user
manual before they do anything else. I think they are
the same people who always eat all their vegetables
and never drive over the speed limit.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia


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Re: Sloppy writing, sloppy thinking: From: Jan Henning

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