Re: On-Line Help User Data

Subject: Re: On-Line Help User Data
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 1996 12:37:24 -0800

At 01:22 PM 3/27/96 GMT, Glenda Jeffrey wrote:
>Susan W. Gallagher (sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com) wrote:

>: * Users won't read procedures that are more than 3 or 4 steps

>So, what is the alternative if the procedure you're writing truly
>has 8 or 9 steps? I can think of a few:

>o Remove any steps which seem obvious and hope the novice figures
> it out.

Yup! Notice that MS has purged the "Click OK" step from all of its
new (95) help files.


>o Combine multiple steps into logical "meta-steps" with more detailed
> steps underneath.

Not necessarily a good idea because it can get cumbersome and the
step will look *huge* and, therefore, intimidating. Could work,
tho, if the steps being combined are closely related and simple.

>o Break the procedure into several procedures.

Definitely a good one -- and one that we should keep our eyes
open for in paper docs as well!


>Any other suggestions? Any ideas on what works best in which situation?

>(The procedures I have in mind are the type that document how to
>use various parts of a GUI.)

Provide navigation info separately, or in a combined step (mentioned
above), or make use of the "shortcuts" available in Win 95 help.

If you have any influence on the software design and can think of
an approach that will simplify the task, speak up!

And once you've done all this, recognize that guidelines are just
that... Guidelines. The procedure police are not gonna come and
arrest you if you do put 8 steps in a procedure and if that's what
it takes, that's what it takes. Someone will be intrepid enough
to read the whole thing. Then they'll be the expert and everyone
else will just ask! ;-)

-Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com


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