Re: Minimalist Document Design

Subject: Re: Minimalist Document Design
From: nburns -at- NOAO -dot- EDU
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 1993 10:45:33 MST

>>From Janie Bergen:

>> This type of design [minimalist documentation design]seems to go against
>> all the principles I was taught. Do many of you technical writers
>> use this design? Can anyone cite some examples that I might look
>> at?
From Shannon Ford:
>Like Janie, I would also be interested in hearing any first-hand accounts from
>people who have tried writing this way.

I recently read an article in IEEE Transactions on Professional
Communication, March 1993, entitled "Usability Testing a Minimal Manual for
the Intel SatisFAXtion(tm) Faxmodem" by J. Scholtz and M. Hansen. The
abstract from the article reads:

"This study compares two versions of a manual for the Intel SatisFAXtion
faxmodem: the original manual shipped with the product and a proposed
shortened manual. The study yielded several results: using either manual
improved performance over no manual; there was little difference in
performance between the group using the original manual and the group using
the proposed shortened manual; and documentation could not completely
compensate for inadequacies in the user interface."

It's a fascinating article for anyone interested in minimalist manuals or
usability testing.

Nancy Burns
National Solar Observatory, Tucson, AZ
nburns -at- noao -dot- edu

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