Re: Studies relating to documentation density and getting the user to read the manuals

Subject: Re: Studies relating to documentation density and getting the user to read the manuals
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- westnet -dot- com -dot- au>
To: Techwr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 18 Feb 2009 13:32:09 +0900 (WST)

Is there any scope to simplify the installation procedure?

It might seem foolish and self-defeating for users to skim the instructions, but it seems (to me) equally foolish and self-defeating for the client to provide users with so many opportunities to get into trouble.

I can't cite any studies off the top of my head, but logically, fewer decisions => fewer wrong decisions => less information needed to inform and support decisions.

I agree with you that terse, well laid-out instructions that are actually used are better than the detailed, comprehensive, thorough, kitchen-sink variety (riffle, thud).

Is this possible:
- Document the main line or success path of the procedure very briefly
- Include necessary warnings at the appropriate points
- After each step, put a 'more info' or 'troubleshooting' link to a separate topic that has detailed information about unusual cases, side branches, error handling, and so on

I also agree with those who say that a blanket warning isn't sufficient. Each warning has to be just before the decision or action that leads to the risk.



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