Re: Information Mapping vs. Usability Testing of Documentation

Subject: Re: Information Mapping vs. Usability Testing of Documentation
From: Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>
To: k k <turnleftatnowhere -at- yahoo -dot- com>, Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 5 Mar 2004 12:23:16 -0800 (PST)


------------------------------
--- k k <turnleftatnowhere -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:
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.
------------------------------

Uh......yeah. I agree and I thought I'd made that point. But I guess I wasn't clear enough. Let me provide an example of what _I_ was talking about:


HOW TO GET TO THE STORE
You can get to the store by either walking or taking your car. Walking can be blah blah blah blah. Taking your car can help you blah blah blah blah.

To get to the store by walking:
1. Put on your shoes.
2. Follow the sidewalk......

To get to the store in your car:
1. Put on your shoes.
2. Grab your license and car keys.
3. Get into the car and follow the road...



Here, you essentially have one task but two ways of doing it. This seems to provide for the two alternatives without having to get into the technical writer's version of If...Then statements in the steps. It's pretty clean and easy to follow. The introductory headings "To do X by Y" provide a quick clue as to the content of those steps, whether the reader actually reads the introduction or not. The introduction could, and usually does, include information about why you would pick one over the other and provide a brief explanation of the differences between the possibilities. That is a BRIEF description, just enough to make sense and help the reader to decide which task they need to look at.

As I stated earlier, it may be that you wouldn't be able to do this in print, but in an electronic format, where you can ensure that all of the content appears on a single page, this works well. At least, I think it does. :-)


********************************************
Sean Hower - tech writer
http://hokum.freehomepage.com






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