Re: atomic steps

Subject: Re: atomic steps
From: JGREY <JGREY -at- MADE2MANAGE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 09:19:25 -0500

Kimberly Cakebread writ:
>>My initial training stressed the need to atomize the steps in a
procedure. In other words, each sentence should include one action.
However, I've noticed many people, most notably Microsoft, now including
several actions in a single step when that step describes how to
navigate to a menu option. For example, to explain how to open the
Add/Remove Programs item on the Windows Control Panel, the instruction
might be this:

1. Click Start, then point to Settings, then click Control Panel, then
double-click Add/Remove Programs.

How do you all feel about this? Would you prefer to see a notation like
Start | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs?<<

You should write instructions the right way for your audience. If I'm
writing for an audience that never worked with computers before or is still
learning about them, then menus might be unfamiliar to them. So it would
make sense in your example to break this down to one micro-action per step.
However, speaking broadly, this would be terribly annoying for power users
and even users comfortable with their computers. They know basic
interaction, and you can leverage that: "Click Start, choose Settings, and
choose Control Panel" might be effective for the broad middle ground of
users, and "Choose Start|Settings|Control Panel" for more advanced users.

In the books we write, some of our users are rank beginners, most have basic
OS operation down, and a few are power/expert users. To serve the largest
group of users, we prefer, "Open the X menu, choose Y, and choose Z." But
in a System Administration book, where the audience is more advanced, we're
likely to vary from our preference a bit and do the "Choose X|Y|Z" thing.

Peace,
jim

P.S.: Anyone remember which TECHWR-Ler wrote a song several years ago -- was
it 1994? -- called "Analyze Your Audience," sung to the tune of "You Can't
Hurry Love?" That was such a hoot.

jim grey \ Documentation Manager
Made2Manage Systems, Inc. \ jgrey -at- made2manage -dot- com


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