Describing branches

Subject: Describing branches
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 12 Jun 1996 21:29:00 EST

We've often had occasion in software documentation to describe tasks that
weren't linear...that is, there are several possible paths the user can
take, depending on the data he enters and conditional branching that such
data can force. For example, a user might start with a preliminary entry
screen and type "medical student." Since medical students need a whole
different set of fields than law students, a Medical Student window opens.
There, the user enters "first year medical student." Yet another branching
occurs. And so on and so forth.

Now, we've solved the problem of describing branches in two basic ways: with
a diagram, and with an if/then table. The first works for all users except
those who are diagrammatically impaired (and there are many such). The
second works for almost everyone, except that it requires more thought and
isn't as amenable to simple recognition.

Does anyone out there have other clever ways to lead the user through
functional branching? I've sought better ways in the Journal and in
textbooks, but we've yet to find anything that isn't just a refinement of
these two basic approaches.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
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