Maintain your old Siemens Hipath system

Writing Helpful Help ? A Minimalism Checklist

User documentation is all too often written by programmers for programmers. It tends to focus on the product's features, rather than the user's tasks. Generally, programmers aren't in the ideal position to be writing user documentation. They're too close to the bits and bytes, and they're too far from the user. To them, what the product can do tends to be far more important than what the user can do with the product.

It's a subtle ? but vital ? distinction. Research shows that the key to effective user documentation is writing task oriented help. Even better, write your help according to the minimalist theory. In the documentation world, "minimalism" is a fancy word for a commonsense practice. In basic terms, it means write to your reader and keep it simple.

The theory itself has a lot of twists and turns. If you want to read a great ? but slightly wordy ? book on the subject, check out the book "Minimalism Beyond the Nurnberg Funnel", 1998, edited by John Carroll.

In the meantime, if you can tick every item in the following checklist, you'll be well on your way to usable online help that both your readers and your managers will thank you for.

Helpful Help Checklist

1. Base the help on real tasks (or realistic examples)

2. Structure the help based on task sequence ? Chapter headings should be goals and topics should be tasks

3. Respect the reader's activity ? this is generally more about what you don't do than what you do. Don't waste the reader's time by diving off into tangents

4. Exploit prior knowledge and experience ? Draw the reader's attention to previous tasks, experiences, successes, and failures

5. Prevent mistakes - "Ensure you do x before doing y"

6. Detect and identify mistakes - "If this fails, you may have entered the path incorrectly"

7. Fix mistakes - "Re-enter the path"

8. Provide error info at end of tasks where necessary (rule of thumb, one error info note per three tasks is a good average)

9. Don't break up instructions with notes, cautions, warnings, and exceptional cases - Put these things at the end of the instruction, wherever possible

10. Be brief, don't spell everything out, especially things that can be taken for granted

11. Omit conceptual and note information where possible, or link to it. Perhaps provide expansion information at the end of the topic, plus maybe a note that there are other ways to perform the task/goal, but this is the easiest

12. Sections should look short and read short

13. Provide closure for sections (e.g., back to original screen/goal)

14. Provide an immediate opportunity to act and encourage exploration and innovation (use active invitations to act, such as, "See for yourself..." or "Try this..." rather than passive invitations such as, "You can...")

15. Get users started quickly

16. Allow for reading in any order - make each section modular, especially goals, but perhaps tasks (definitely if they can be performed in different order)

17. Highlight things that are not typical

18. Use active voice rather than passive voice

19. Try to account for the user's environment in your writing

20. Before writing anything, ask yourself "Will this help my reader?"

By building these practices into your documentation process, you'll find that your online help becomes easier to write, shorter, and far more usable for your reader. What's more, your boss will love you!

About The Author

* Glenn Murray is an SEO copywriter and Article Submission Specialist. He is a director of PublishHub and also of copywriting studio Divine Write. He can be contacted on Sydney +612 4334 6222 or at glenn@divinewrite.com. Visit http://www.divinewrite.com or http://www.publishhub.com for further details, more FREE articles, or to purchase his e-book, 'SEO Secrets'.

In The News:

21 killed as pipeline explodes after fuel theft
Sat, 19 Jan 2019 03:08:00 +0000
At least 21 people have died and 71 others injured after a pipeline breached by fuel thieves exploded triggering a massive fire in central Mexico.

Bangkok pollution 'at crisis level' as planes trigger rain
Fri, 18 Jan 2019 23:34:00 +0000
Doctors in Thailand are warning Bangkok could face a pollution health crisis if it does not address its smog problem.

From jail, crime bosses blow up bridges and set petrol stations on fire
Fri, 18 Jan 2019 14:03:00 +0000
Petrol stations set alight, bridges blown up and police stations torched are just a few of the ways crime bosses in Brazil are flexing their muscles from within the confines of their prison walls.

Police's mission to 'blitz' gang-controlled areas of dangerous city
Fri, 18 Jan 2019 16:25:00 +0000


Second summit: Trump and Kim set to meet in February
Fri, 18 Jan 2019 19:08:00 +0000
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are planning to meet for a second summit at the end of February, the White House says.



tikatoshop.it

Erfahrungen mit Pallhuber Wein
Agen Bola SBOBET Terpercaya

Travel in comfort and at your leisure with CT Airlink Limousine & Car Service for top quality private transportation and exceptional customer service. We operate Sedans, SUVs & Vans for CT Car Services to covering all Connecticut airports including Car Service from CT to Newark Airport , Mohegan Casino Uncasville CT, Foxwoods Casino Mashantucket CT, Manhattan Cruise Terminal NYC, Brooklyn Cruise Terminal NYC and Bayonne Cruise Terminal NJ. CT Airlink hire licensed and friendly chauffeurs who have in-depth knowledge of the Areas.

Writing Technique: The Restaurant Syndrome

Picture this scene.Your hero is sitting in a bar. He's... Read More

Before You Write Your Book, Organize Its Parts - Part 2

If you are a serious writer who wants to publish... Read More

How You Can Take Advantage of the Increasing Demand for Freelance Online Writers

The freelance writing market is a growing market to be... Read More

10 Tips To Help You Pack More Power Into Your Business Writing

1. Before you write anything down define not what you... Read More

How To Write Your Book Within A Week

Everyone has a book inside them, or so the saying... Read More

How To Co-Publish For Profits!

The Benefits of Co-Publishing There are a number of publishers,... Read More

How to Write a Holiday Tale that Isn?t a Turkey

When we write stories, with the purpose of sharing them... Read More

A Simple Contest with a Strong Message: Wake Up Your Writing Spirit

The Blogfest 2005 Writing Contest has only been running for... Read More

A Plan

All writers should use a plan whether written or reflected.... Read More

Ten Ways to Get Cheap (and Free) Magazine Samples

1 - Join a reading or writing group. Ask members... Read More

Blank Mind, Blank Screen: Need Ideas!

Q. I'm staring at a blank screen with an equally... Read More

I Am Biodegradable - My Writing Is Not

My dad was wrong. I just discovered that I am... Read More

Could Your Book Idea Be the Next Best Seller?

Everyone has a unique story to tell. From explaining business... Read More

Rules for Getting the Story Down

1. Write it fast, fix it later.2. Commit to writing... Read More

7 Reference Books for Your Desk

I hate to admit this, but I rarely get an... Read More

8 Great Journaling Tips

Mix a martini, don't forget the olives, or pour yourself... Read More

5 Effective Web Writing Tips

Writing for the web is very different from writing for... Read More

Does Your Plot Suit Your Characters And Vice-Versa?

Creative Writing Tips ?When an idea comes to us for... Read More

Pairs/Groups Of Words Often Confused - Part 6 of 6

SALE, SAIL Sale is either offering something for purchase... Read More

Authors-Stop Expensive Mistakes Before you Spend on Professional Services

So many clients come to me as a book or... Read More

Writing as a Gift

What am I supposed to give Anthony as a wedding... Read More

Writer School?

Here's something from my mailbag. "Dear Michael, do you need... Read More

You Can Be An Author

"You should write a book." For years, I had been... Read More

2nd Installment on Autobiography

ESSAY 2Andre Malraux once said that what interested him in... Read More

Getting Published Is Different For Everyone: Two Paths Among Many

One obvious question that can get overlooked in the process... Read More