Procedural Steps

Subject: Procedural Steps
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 30 Oct 1996 08:14:47 PST


I've been doing some research into using procedural
steps, as in:

1. Select some text.
2. Click the B button.
3. Do something else.

I've been looking into several issues, but noticed
that some commercial software manuals (as in the
Dummies books, XXX Made Easy, ABCs of XXX,
and similar series) often do not consistently
or regularly number the steps.

I've always assumed that each numbered step should
reflect an action on the part of the reader. That is,
if there are three things the reader must do,
there should be three steps. I've found that many
books present the information as
1. Select some text.
2. The text will appear highlighted on the screen.
3. Click the B button.
4. The text will be boldfaced.
5. Do something else.

with all kinds of numbered stuff that doesn't require

Alternatively, many present the information in
paragraph form, as in.
To apply boldface formatting to text, select the
text, then click the B button. After you're finished,
do something else.
One book I sampled doesn't use a numbered list
in about 300 pages.

Do any of you know anything about the various schools
of thought or usability tests that would support
either of the second two examples? I personally
REALLY object to the numbered non-steps, and
think that the paragraph approach leaves a lot
to be desired, but someone's blowing a lot of
money on publishing these books -- comments?


Eric J. Ray ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com
TECHWR-L Listowner

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