Usability 101 - A novice's look at documentation usability

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  • Short two-to-three-minute video tutorials can be a powerful form of documentation. Videos, especially videos with voice, approximate the user’s desire to have a friend show them how to use the application.
  • Two areas that usability is important in the online documentation. The usability of content: text picture, graphics and the usability of delivering techniques such as content, index, search engine and navigational tools. Several common types of errors: First strategic, that includes searching several books, needing two books for one task, needing to ignore most pages. Second is structural, the problem such as jumping from front to back, never reading pages in sequence, searching for exhibits, tables. And the third type of common errors is tactical. This includes: stopping to notice mechanical errors, getting stuck on inconsistent terminology, rereading difficult passages.
  • Usability 101 - A novice's look at documentation usability

    1. 1. Documentation Usability
    2. 2. Users define Usability <ul><li>We call them users for a reason; not readers – they like to use things – not read . </li></ul><ul><li>Research shows users are more likely to use help when it’s integrated into the user interface rather than delivered as a separate system. </li></ul>Confidential <ul><li>They don’t like to stop their work to turn to a separate system for learning. It makes them feel unproductive. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, they might say “ That report is due in an hour so I better figure out how to generate it in the right format with the right fields. There’s no time to consult the help manual .” </li></ul>
    3. 3. Users define Usability Confidential While users are searching through the help, keep in mind your user is: Frustrated Impatient Possibly Angry and the tension is building with each unsuccessful click The users are not sipping lemonade on a beach, casually browsing the help while gazing out at the sea.
    4. 4. Writing for Users <ul><li>As we write for users in this state of mind, we have to remember the hurry . </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid long chunks of text. Avoid long topics. </li></ul><ul><li>Break up long chunks of text with subheadings. </li></ul><ul><li>Give answers to problems, not long descriptions of menu bars. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider making FAQs the default landing page or Make your start page show the top ten problems users encounter. </li></ul><ul><li>Link up related concepts and tasks. </li></ul><ul><li>Many users use Search as an entry door to documentation. </li></ul><ul><li>So make your topics findable in searches (indexes/glossary) </li></ul>Confidential
    5. 5. Writing for Users <ul><li>Links phrased as questions get more results than help buttons or information icons, which users have learned to ignore. For e.g. Add a short link that says “ Where is my transaction history? ” </li></ul><ul><li>1-page quick reference guides provide the best kind of starting documentation that users want and read. It communicates simplicity. </li></ul><ul><li>On line help should also be printable by users </li></ul><ul><li>Finally, when you read through your help, read it with the same angry frenzy that your readers are in, and see how carefully you move through each sentence. </li></ul>Confidential
    6. 6. Conclusion <ul><li>User-friendly documentation cannot improve an unfriendly application. </li></ul><ul><li>A difficult procedure, explained well, is still difficult. </li></ul><ul><li>Bad documentation makes procedures harder to follow. </li></ul>Confidential Writer Purpose Audience
    7. 7. References <ul><li>http:// www.stcsig.org/usability/resources/toolkit/toolkit.html </li></ul><ul><li>http:// www.wqusability.com/articles/more-than-ease-of-use.html </li></ul>Confidential

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