Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals

Subject: Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals
From: CARYN_RIZELL -at- HP-ROSEVILLE-OM2 -dot- OM -dot- HP -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 1996 11:25:56 -0800

On the surface it seems like a good idea to put in field length and
required or optional for help on a field. But, wouldn't it be better
to design the software so that the user knows upfront which fields are
required? Also, when does the user really care about field length?
Before they enter the data, or after they have made a mistake? When I
am entering field information, I don't check help BEFORE I enter the
data. I enter what seems appropriate and assume it will work. If it
won't, then I want an error message that provides a solution.

I have never been fond of providing field length info in most cases.
I think most people assume certain things, like the state name is
going to be either 2 characters or 50 (an arbitary number. it
probably isn't going to be much longer than that.) Usually it is
pretty obvious by the look of the screen what the field length for a
field is.

This isn't so say that this info isn't needed, but maybe the help
dialog isn't the first place someone might look for that info.

Just more fuel for the fire!

Caryn Rizell

>>We do this as well for every field, but we also provide useful information
>>such as field length and whether the field is required or optional for
>>data entry. If a field is a display-only field, we provide a See Also
>>link to the screen where the user originally entered the information.
>>Because our product uses a third party report writer, we also identify the
>>report writer field name (and it's view) for all fields that can be used
>>in reports.

>>I think consistency is the thing - users get comfortable with knowing
>>they can get help on every field. If it's only available on some fields,
>>they lose that comfort level.

Kim Cramer
kcramer -at- ncslink -dot- com
Information Developer
NCS Education

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