Re: "I, User" (re numbering schemes)

Subject: Re: "I, User" (re numbering schemes)
From: Bonni Graham <Bonni_Graham_at_Enfin-SD -at- RELAY -dot- PROTEON -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1993 09:42:00 EST

Ken wrote:

"Now, with my "User" hat on, if I'm reading a complex technical document,
I want as many signposts as possible to help me navigate. I probably
don't read a manual cover-to-cover, from front to back. If I buy a home
carpentry book to learn how to install insulation, I may never crack
either the introduction or the chapter about paperhanging. Pages 1 - 15,
145 - 236, and 275 - 320 are irrelevant. Simple sequential page numbers
are irr[itating]" (sorry, Ken, my editor cut off the last half of this
word -- I think that's what you meant)

Interestingly enough, I have the oppostie reaction. I have a graphics
program manual, with no bleeding chapter side-tabs (which BTW, I also
worship as much as I worship anything), that numbers pages using the
chapter method. It is very difficult to find the page I need on the
first couple of hits.

Why? Because if I see a reference to page 450, I have a pretty good idea
of how thick 450 pages are -- I can almost go right to it on the first
shot. BUT, where is page 8-8? How can I make a good ballpark guess,
when chapters are of uneven length? I usually end up going to 7-13, then
9-47, then _maybe_, if I guess right, page 8-X and can flip to 8-8. Once
I know how long each chapter is, I can go right to it, but who has time
to memorize the sizes of chapters?

The page numbering scheme in this book has created more work for me -- to
the point where I don't use the index anymore. I use the TOC, go to the
topically appropriate chapter, then scan the headers. This is still more
work, but it's less frustrating.

My point is, as always (and you can all sing along):


Naive end users will _probably_ want consecutive numbering, because
they're already familiar with that. If it's a big book, you'll probably
want consecutive numbering (consecutive numbering -- even up to four
digits -- is not going to be any more scary to the user than the physical
size of the book -- you can play hidey games with page length if you want
to, but a door stop is still a door stop). Experienced techies will
understand chaptered page numbering, if you also give them other clues
(like tabs). A modular manual can proably use chapter numbering safely.
And so on.

Ask yourself, "What is the industry standard my users are used to?" In
my last incarnation as a writer of library automation manuals, I used
chapter numbering because that's how library standards books are produced
-- i.e., they're mostly naive end users (in a computer-use sense), but
they're already familiar with chaptered numbering.

Clearly this is an issue with no one Shining Path to Truth. Again I say, what
does your user expect?

Bonni Graham |
Technical Writer |
Easel Corporation, ENFIN Technology Lab |
Bonni_Graham_at_Enfin-SD -at- relay -dot- proteon -dot- com | flush, v. Align type to the
President, San Diego STC | left or right, thereby
| beating a pair of aces.
NOTE: apparently my email address needs |
to be typed exactly as it appears here, | --Ezra Shapiro
punctuation and all, or the system gets |
upset. |

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