Re: Information Mapping vs. Usability Testing of Documentation

Subject: Re: Information Mapping vs. Usability Testing of Documentation
From: k k <turnleftatnowhere -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 5 Mar 2004 12:04:26 -0800 (PST)

>
> ---------------------------
> HSC Italian
> 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.
>

No matter how well you try to explain it, the list
above looks sequential and some people will jump to
the conclusion that 1.2 must be done after 1.1.
Especially since some impatient people will skip the
introductory material and go straight into the
procedure itself.

If it is at all possible, I would recommend making two
entirely different procedure lists rather than have
one that branches. Then there is no possibility of
confusion.



If that simply isn't doable for some reason, you may
want to try putting the instructions in a table like
the one shown below. This is the same kind of thing I
used to put in field service manuals.

|------|---------------------------------------------|
| Step | Action |
|------|---------------------------------------------|
| 1. | DO THIS. |
| |---------------------------------------------|
| | If X, go to A, below. If Y, go to B, below.|
| |---|-----------------------------------------|
| | A | Be amazed. Then go to step 2. |
| |---|-----------------------------------------|
| | B | Be puzzled. Then go to step 2. |
|------|---|-----------------------------------------|
| 2. | DO THAT. |
|------|---------------------------------------------|
| 3. | DO THE OTHER THING. |
|------|---------------------------------------------|


The lines between table cells help to distinguish
where one step starts and the other stops. The
number for Step 1 is in a table cell that is merged
with several other cells in the column below.

Step 1A ends with an explicit directive to go to step
2. That gives the reader a pretty clear idea he isn't
supposed to go to step 1B.



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References:
Information Mapping vs. Usability Testing of Documentation: From: Sean Hower

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