Re: usability test of manuals

Subject: Re: usability test of manuals
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Mon, 11 Aug 1997 15:06:35 +0800

I'm forwarding with the author's permission the following message,
which was posted on UTEST, the Usability Testing list. I thought the
checklist in particular was a great summary of what good technical
writing is about. There's nothing here that will be news to regular
readers of techwr-l, but I can't remember seeing it put so concisely
and so well.

Regards
---
Stuart Burnfield "3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1. . .
Functional Software Pty Ltd 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1"
mailto:slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au

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Date: Thu, 07 Aug 1997 09:46:53 -0500
From: "Robert R. Moritz" <bobmoritz -at- pipeline -dot- com>
Subject: RE: usability test of manuals

If you are going to do some comparison of one manual to another I've
found that using hueristic evaluation ala Jakob Nielsen's (Usability
Engineering, 1993) to be very efficient and effective along with the
description and application in Dumas and Redish's book (A practical
guide to usability testing)- I use the following guidelines that are
either summarized in one of the references below or a bit has been
stolen from each. My apologies to the authors for not remembering
where each item or the whole list was generated from:

1. Organize so that users can find information quickly. (Apply a
consistent organizational strategy).
2. Put the user in control by showing the structure of the manual.
3. Use typography to give readers clues to the structure of the manual.
4. Write so that users can picture themselves in the text.
5. Write so that you don't overtax users' working memory.
6. Use users' words.
7. Be consistent.

These guidelines can be found in the following sources:

Brockmann, J.R. (1990) Writing better computer user documentation:
From paper to hypertext. New York: John Wiley.
Dumas, J.S. and Redish, J.C. (1993/4) A practical guide to usability
testing. Ablex Publishing.
Horton, W. (1990) Designing and writing online documentation.
New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Neilsen, J. (1993). Usability Engineering. Boston: AP Professional.
Redish, J.C. (1988). Reading to learn to do. The Technical Writing
Teacher, xv(3), 223-233.

Also, "Information Mapping" is another resource which which might be
part of this list - my own memory fails me -

A side note - the hueristic evaluation of one evaluator seems to match
very well against performance and perference measures when conducting
a usability evaluation of manuals with about 6 users.

Bob Moritz

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