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I'll add my endorsement to the other
posters who point to use-cases
as the most useful feature of the Rational
methodology from the standpoint of
designing and producing end-user assistance
material. You can get more useful
information from a handful of properly
executed use-case diagrams than you can
from hundreds of pages of conventional
system-design chaff -- and the great thing
is that the developers and architects don't
even have to write complete sentences to
generate them. (You may need, though, to
coach them by giving them templates or
examples, and helping the ones who are
having trouble with the concept.)
For example, a set of use-case diagrams
should answer the following questions just
1. Who are the users, by category?
2. What specific results will these categories
of users get out of the system, and, for each
result, what data will they put into it to get
With that information, you can assemble
a basic design for your user-assistance
package (theoretically anyway) before
the first line of code is written. The rest
is filling in the details (buttons and commands)
as the interface is fleshed out.
What an improvement from the old method
of holding four hundred pages of closely-
typed functional specifications up to your
temple at midnight, sprinkling chicken's blood
around the fire, and pleading for Satanic assistance
in answering the question "What the bloody hell is
this software supposed to DO anyway?"
"An active-voice transitive verb always beats
a copula-and-adjective-complement combo."
-- Prof. James Bloom via William Safire
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