Re: Information Mapping

Subject: Re: Information Mapping
From: Yvonne DeGraw <yvonne -at- SILCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 30 Aug 1996 09:57:55 -0700

Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET> wrote:

>This is something that's bugged me about Info Mapping for years. The actual
>research into 7 plus or minus 2 is in memory, and short-term memory at that.
>Little research has been done in stepwise instructions, which are presumably
>performed then promptly forgotten. I suspect that Horn has seized this
>principle, which sounds so dreadfully scientific, and extrapolated it into
>an inapplicable area. This returns us to the subject of what our documents
>are used for, training or reference. In a reference work the 5-to-9 nonsense

I don't want to get into the whole IMAP argument, but I agree that this bit
of research seems misapplied. The point of following a stepped procedure is
that you *don't* have to hold all the steps in short-term memory.

This is true especially in the case of a tutorial where the actual steps are
not what person needs to remember -- you are helping the reader build a
mental map of the interface. I'd rather see some research on the limits of
the average person's mental map RAM.

I do limit myself to a number of steps that I feel won't discourage my
audience. This number probably varies with the audience. Once you get into
steps with two digit numbers, the computer-newbee audience may think, "Yike,
I'm on Step 10. How many more steps do I need to do?" So, the limit of 9
steps may still be good for some audiences -- but for a different reason.
Yvonne DeGraw, Technical Services o Web Authoring
yvonne -at- silcom -dot- com o Technical Writing o Database Design and Publishing
Tel: 805/683-5784 o User-Interface Design
~~~~~~~~ My latest project: ~~~~~~~~
The interactive Web authoring tutorial for AOLpress. Download AOLpress
at, install, run, and choose Help-->Tutorial.

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