Re: Before or After

Subject: Re: Before or After
From: Peter Neilson <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: Brian Neale <bneale -at- idirect -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 07 Apr 2009 07:46:28 -0400

Brian Neale wrote:
> When directing Users to perform a task, do you tell them "what to do"
> before telling them "where to do it", or vice versa.
> For example:
> "Double-click on the procedure you want to use in the Codes list box."
> Or
> "In the Codes list box, double-click on the procedure you want to use."


Test your instructions on the most naive versions of your typical user
that you can find. Listen carefully when they complain that it's hard to
follow what you wrote, or that they feel lost.

Consider that the major use of your written instructions might be to
find out how to accomplish a particular action. Instead of (for
instance) a list of the 47 things that each of 47 buttons do, they might
need a chapter that leads them into an understanding of all those
buttons, how they are grouped, and the right way to pick out the correct
button for smoothing the extrapolation, even though neither of the terms
"smoothing" or "extrapolation" appear in the original functional specs
handed to you by the SME.

If, as tech writers, we are doing anything that's genuinely worthwhile,
it's making life easier for people who are trying to find the
information that they were promised by the Sales and Engineering teams.

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Before or After: From: Brian Neale

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