Re: Information Mapping vs. Usability Testing of Documentation

Subject: Re: Information Mapping vs. Usability Testing of Documentation
From: <technicoid -at- cableone -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Thu, 04 Mar 2004 08:22:42 -0700

Hi, Heidi.

>The audience of our user guides have a max education level of 6th grade.
>One style in particular that is being rolled into the template that I have
>concerns about usability is numbered sub- steps. For example:
>
>1. From the front panel, press Cancel.
> 1.1 if the LCD says blah, do this.
> 1.2 if the LCD says blah, do this.
>
>2. Do such and such.
>
>Again, my concern is how usable is this method for end-users with minimal
>education?

Using substeps itself can be a little confusing, and the miltary-style numbering scheme can make
it more so, especially for people who aren't familiar with the convention. It's a great tool for
reference but gets in the way if the text is for a novice user.

I guess I's look at the procedure in a larger context. If the substeps are significant enough of
a variation to write two separate procedures (for example, if damage to equipment or data or
injury to the user are possible), then I'd have two procedures. If the branching is of only
passing significance, substeps would be okay. HOWEVER, I would precede the substeps with the
statement "Do one of the following steps." Otherwise, there's no clear indication that only one
option should be chosen.

The less technical the audience, the more likley the need to break this task into two separate
tasks.

Just my worthless opinion.

Bill
technicoid -at- cableone -dot- net


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