RE: Information Mapping vs. Usability Testing of Documentation

Subject: RE: Information Mapping vs. Usability Testing of Documentation
From: "SCHUTZ, ME" <me -dot- schutz -at- thermo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L digest" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 5 Mar 2004 09:24:20 -0600

Hello Heidi,

The type of step numbering your colleague proposes causes problems on 2
fronts...

- it is intimidating for folk with minimal education
(the procedure simply looks too difficult and
confusing...throw the book away...)

- it introduces unexpected characters into the instructions
(I'm expecting words to tell me what to do...what are these
numbers am I supposed to do something with them?)

Having written for a variety of audiences over the past 20+ years (from
city ordinances, to commercial computer hardware and software, to field
and depot level service, to high-end scientific instrumentation -
infrared microscopes, spectrometers, and the like for use by PhD (min.)
research scientists, to scientific instrumentation with an interface
adapted for use on, say, a factory floor) and having 2 dyslexic
children, I can foresee nothing but confusion resulting from
documentation that uses the substep identification as you show below.

Much of an audience with the education level you indicate will be
(diagnosed or not) dyslexic. Introducing unnecessary, unexpected,
incongruous symbols into text will stop them cold. My children (now
grades 8 and 10, with...thanks to a specialized reading
technique...proficient grade-level reading skills) would be immediately
looking on the screen and the equipment for those numbers...looking for
something to push, adjust, etc. Not finding it, they would then attempt
to go back to the text and read on...but, would, more than likely have
lost their place in the text...leading to skipped or repeated
steps...depending on how volatile the procedure is...it can cause some
real problems...

When writing for minimal readers...the fewer words, the fewer extraneous
symbols (including outline, line, and substep numbering), the more
illustrations, the more visual...the BETTER. Use your layout to
structure and provide hierarchy for substeps...

One other general rule of thumb...If it takes more than 10 steps...there
is probably more than one procedure in the procedure you are
documenting. Break it into sub groups with headings to identify the
tasks. There really is profound truth in the saying "It's easy as 1 - 2
- 3..." Most minimal readers have difficulty with ordered operations
and procedures. A typical dyslexic characteristic is the inability to
remember ordered steps. If it takes more than 10 steps...the task is
simply too difficult to start...

Hope that helps...
ME

Mary Ellen Schutz
Sr. Technical Writer
Translation Coordinator
Thermo Electron Corporation
5225-4 Verona Road
Madison, WI 53711

Phone: (608)276-6100 ext. 2339
Fax: (608)276-6328

__________________________________________________

Subject: Information Mapping vs. Usability Testing of Documentation
From: "HSC Italian" <twins398 -at- hotmail -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 04 Mar 2004 07:16:12 -0600
X-Message-Number: 4

Hello List,

For those of you familiar with Information Mapping and documentation
usability; is Information Mapping a form of confirming that a document
is
accurate/usable, or is it more how it is layed out and chunked? The
reason
I ask is that currently a co-worker is implementing some of the
Information
Mapping techniques into our template.

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?

All feedback is welcome.

TIA,

Heidi


Mary Ellen Schutz
Sr. Technical Writer
Translation Coordinator
Thermo Electron Corporation
5225-4 Verona Road
Madison, WI 53711

Phone: (608)276-6100 ext. 2339
Fax: (608)276-6328






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