One-step Procedures

Subject: One-step Procedures
From: "Marie C. Paretti" <mparetti -at- RRINC -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 1997 10:15:01 -0400

>IMHO, there are no one-step procedures. Either the one step should be
>combined with another procedure or you should look to make sure you haven't
>missed some kind of either/or situation that would result in more than one
>procedural step. I would tend to think that the one step would be part of
>some larger operation nearly all the time.

I'd have to disagree on this -- in my experience, there are lots of
one-step procedures. Case in point: The software I'm documenting at the
moment has a variety of ways to issue the same command depending on what
window the user has open -- sometimes it involves making a series of menu
choices; sometimes it involves just selecting a pushbutton on the window.
So I end up with procedures like:

Eating All the Oysters
[insert brief explanation here]
You can order all the oysters from either the Walrus Window or the
Carpenter Window:

From the Walrus Window:
1. Select the Dinner Menu
2. Select Oysters. The food system will open a cascade menu listing all
the individual oysters currently available, along with the option All Oysters.
3. From the cascade menu select All Oysters. The system will deliver the
oysters to your beach blanket.

From the Carpenter Window:
1. Select the Eat All Oysters pushbutton. The system will deliver the
oysters to your cubicle.

Of course, I still haven't decided whether to number the single-step
procedures. But it does seem to me that it's pretty easy to avoid the
"where's the next step?" confusing by including the "The system will. . . "
statement as part of the instructions. The user knows that the single step
produces the desired results, so there is no "next step" to look for.

And now I suppose I should write some real instructions. . .


Marie C. Paretti
Department of English Recognition Research, Inc.
University of Wisconsin - Madison Blacksburg, Virginia
mparetti -at- facstaff -dot- wisc -dot- edu mparetti -at- rrinc -dot- com

Sometimes I feel like a dog
standin' on a tool box
in the back of a pickup truck
doin' 90 round a corner
just tryin' to hold on for dear life.
James Bonamy

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