Re: Procedural Steps

Subject: Re: Procedural Steps
From: Jane Bergen <janeb -at- AIRMAIL -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1996 23:03:37 +600

Steve Shewchuk said

> I don't have any information about usability tests, but we've been
> putting together some help files that have numbered steps, so I do
> have a few comments.

> 1) The "numbered non-steps" may be annoying, but I have just as big
> a problem with something like:

> #1 From the Windows menu, select Options. The options window will
> #open on
> the right hand side of the screen.

> As you can see, I have combined the step with the non-step. But to
> my mind it defeats the purpose of creating a numbered list: to
> present *short*, easy to follow steps. When you look at a numbered
> list, and each item in that list is multiple lines, it takes away
> from the simplicity of the format. And in help files, you do have
> to try to be simple when guiding somebody through the steps.

I agree that the paragraphs without numbers can sometimes bury the
procedural steps. When I have a very complex sequence of steps with each
step requiring a lot of explanation, I prefer the two-plan approach.
First I explain in an overview what the steps are using numbered
lists of only a couple words (for example,"back up your files" or
"edit the configuration files"). Then I explain that the following
sections will provide detailed information for each step.

This approach works well because the users/readers can see at a
glance what they're getting into and gives them a sense of confidence
that it really is not so complicated. In fact, some "power users" may
not even need the details (although unlikely in our case).

Hope this helps someone.

Jane Bergen
janeb -at- airmail -dot- net


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