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 23:03:16 +1000

Dick Margulis wrote :
> Michael, in the environment where you and I generally work, tool tips
> and online help are, well, potentially helpful. On a 24-line character
> display terminal, where a data entry clerk is getting a cryptic error
> message about an improperly formatted entry in a field on a form she
> rarely uses, though, a field-level reference manual is a good thing.

Okay, so you got your Photoshop in one hand and your
24-line data-entry terminal in the other, and you're
telling me my recommendation won't work equally
well for both, or either, or whatever. Okay. I'm thinking
of more run-o'-the mill GUI business applications.

What I'm railing against is the far-too-common
practice of cataloguing the interface as a *substitute*
for doing harder to write how-to workflows.
As a *supplement* to procedural structures, I got no
issue with including a look-up table for buttons and
commands, or term-defs lists for input fields. (Of *course*
you need to specify input rules in data-entry situations.
Who doesn't do that?)

But since you and Jan Henning both mention
PhotoShop (hardly a typical business app), I've
never been at all impressed with the user doc for
paint programs like PhotoShop, Paintshop Pro,
PhotoPaint, etc. They all seem to me to need a
heavy application of the "To achieve this result,
do this ..." approach. The button names
are, as you say, cryptic for casual, non-professional
graphics twiddlers like myself. And even when they tell
me what the button does in terms I can understand,
I still need to click it to see how it will change my image.
So in this case I'll stick by my guns and ask for a
much more results-based information design. 'Twould
shorten the learning curve considerably, and make me stop
looking around for something that's less of a struggle
for the casual user but still full of neat tricks.

I should mention that there's a huge amount of
third-party tutorial material available around the Web,
in case anyone is feeling as helpless as I was when I
needed to build a website around a gallery of images,
most of them being out-of-focus snapshots taken by--

Michael West
(You might want to wait a few days before
visiting -- the host server is in the midst of a
denial-of-service attack this week and image
downloads are glacially slow.)


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

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