RE: 40 buttons on one screen

Subject: RE: 40 buttons on one screen
From: Beth Agnew <Beth -dot- Agnew -at- senecac -dot- on -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 06 May 2005 07:09:30 -0400

Is there some kind of pattern or logic to the arrangement of buttons and
functions on the screen? I'm thinking things like inputting personal
details, selecting output options, or whatever.

If there is a discernable flow to it, you could describe it that way. Is
there a tabbing order? For example, if you select one button, complete that
action and then tab -- where does it go? That might be the order in which to
describe the functions.

If a graphic of the entire screen isn't legible, use a reduced size and put
a visible box or circle around the portion you will be describing. Then
follow it with a graphic that IS legible but includes only the functions in
that area, surrounded by the same circle or box -- essentially a magnified
version of that part of the screen. The thumbnail (though it should be a
little larger than that) orients the reader to the quadrant of the screen
you're talking about, then the enlarged version goes into the detail.

Rather than saying "In the bottom left corner of the screen, click..." show
a graphic of just that button and say "Click (button name) to..." If you
have used the magnification idea just described, then the reader can refer
to that part to understand where the button or box is, all you have to do is
describe the function.

I think it's worthwhile to try to exert your influence on the interface --
can like sections be "grouped" visually by adding a line or box on the
interface itself? It's generally not good to use color to differentiate
sections, as some people are colorblind, but maybe a symbol or a number? Try
to get the developers to include labels you've written that are explanatory.
Instead of "Options" as a button name, perhaps something more descriptive
such as "Page Properties". I realize that you may not have space on the
button for this. Be sure to implement Tool Tips -- when you hover your
cursor over the function, a small label pops up with a couple words of
identification -- and alert your readers that this is available. Very little
developer time required for Tool Tips -- you write the labels and all they
have to do is enable it.

It's a mess and a challenge, for sure, but also a very good opportunity for
you to explain to the powers that be that your input into screen design
earlier in the development process would help reduce these kinds of problems
at the end. Ideally, you might be able to put so much intelligence into the
screen design that comprehensive online help would not be that necessary.
One can always dream! <g>

Good luck with your project, Ashok.

Beth Agnew
Professor, Technical Communication
Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology
416-491-5050 x3133

-----Original Message-----
From: bounce-techwr-l-118812 -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:bounce-techwr-l-118812 -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com]On Behalf Of Ashok

I have to write the online help for an application which essentially
consists of one main screen with a bewildering number of buttons, boxes and
lists for a host of functions. <snip>


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40 buttons on one screen: From: Ashok Gopal

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