Re: Readers who don't read

Subject: Re: Readers who don't read
From: Paul Goble <paulg -at- COL -dot- HP -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1993 16:14:47 MST

Eric writes:
> I'll bet that I have had at least three upset, stuck,
> and confused users who have not only typed the full
> word (and generated a full screen of confusing error
> messages) but have also typed the "()" that I included
> to set off what they wouldn't type.
> What do you do in similiar cases?

Here's what I'd do:

1. Fix the software. If users consistently enter some sequence of
keystrokes to try to accoplish something, why not adapt the
software to the users?

You might try a simple usability test: put the "product" in front
of a novice, with NO manual, and see what they do. Make the
software understand whatever the user did.

It's okay to have two--or ten--ways for the user to do something.

2. Use different fonts for "user" and "system" responses. If nothing
else, just "bold" the letter the user is to type. That's a
courtesy that, in my opinion, most users *expect*.

> Or, in a broader
> sense, how do you get users to read the information
> about manual conventions?

We can't coerce users to read anything. We can only try to use standard
conventions so the "lazy" users won't get confused.

One general principle which may help: if you need to use a special
symbol within an example, make it something the user CANNOT type from
the keyboard (e.g., bold, italic, icon, or dingbat characters).

--------======= * =======--------
Paul Goble
Hewlett-Packard Colorado Springs Division
Learning Products Engineering
paulg -at- col -dot- hp -dot- com

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