steps in long procedures

Subject: steps in long procedures
From: Shannon Ford - Technical Writer <shannon -at- UNIFACE -dot- ALAMEDA -dot- CA -dot- US>
Date: Fri, 10 Jun 1994 13:29:28 -0700

re:Priscilla's note about not breaking the steps into subheadings
(included below)

I am working on a tutorial which I describes, step-by-step, some
relatively complex tasks. I wanted to keep the organization as flat as
possible, so I have three levels: chapters represent a high-level goal;
sections represent a major task; and subsections represent a subtask for
the major task.

I start each major task (section) with step 1, but continue
the numbering all the way through until the next section, ignoring
the subsections. So, for example,
a subsection might start with step 3 or step 10. I did this to try and
maintain the continuity of the major task, while still breaking the task
up into logical pieces.

The beginning of the tutorial, especially, has a lot of steps, because I
describe every move. Later, I assume they have learned the basics, so I
can just say `Save your changes and close the form' instead of
the exact actions needed to do those two things.

Now I'm wondering if I should start each subsection at step 1 as well.

What do y'all think?

shannon -at- uniface -dot- alameda -dot- ca -dot- us

(BTW, I've seen and used the flow-chart method before (not always with a
flow chart, but showing graphically where the reader was in relation to
the whole). I never have heard any feedback about it, but it does indeed
look nice.)

> I've encountered this issue in several recent projects. I agree that endless
> steps are hard to follow and daunting for the reader -- but in my case there
> was a long, uninterrupted sequence for some users and task-skipping for others

> I decided it was less confusing for readers to skip to "step 32" than to skip
> to the section entitled "blahblahblah." The overall numbering gives a context
> to the procedure that's difficult to emulate with words or headings, etc.

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