Writing Helpful Help – A Minimalism Checklist

User documentation is all too frequently written through programmers for programmers. It has a tendency to focus at the product’s functions, instead of the user’s tasks. Generally, programmers aren’t in the correct position to be writing consumer documentation. They’re too close to the bits and bytes, and they’re too far from the consumer. To them, what the product can do has a tendency to be some distance more essential than what the user can do with the product.

It’s a diffused – however critical – distinction. Research indicates that the key to powerful consumer documentation is writing challenge oriented assist. Even better, write your assist in step with the minimalist concept. In the documentation global, “minimalism” is a fancy word for a common-sense exercise. In fundamental terms, it way write to your reader and maintain it easy.

The theory itself has plenty of twists and turns. If you need to examine a super – but barely wordy – ebook on the concern, take a look at out the book “Minimalism Beyond the Nurnberg Funnel”, 1998, edited by using John Carroll.

In the period in-between, if you may tick each object within the following checklist, you’ll be well on your manner to usable on line help that both your readers and your managers will thanks for.

Helpful Help Checklist

1. Base the help on actual obligations (or sensible examples)

2. Structure the help based totally on challenge sequence – Chapter headings have to be goals and topics ought to be responsibilities

three. Respect the reader’s activity – that is typically extra approximately what you don’t do than what you do. Don’t waste the reader’s time by means of diving off into tangents

four. Exploit prior information and revel in – Draw the reader’s attention to preceding responsibilities, experiences, successes, and disasters

five. Prevent errors – "Ensure you do x earlier than doing y"

6. Detect and perceive mistakes – "If this fails, you could have entered the course incorrectly"

7. Fix errors – "Re-enter the route"

eight. Provide blunders data at quit of tasks where important (rule of thumb, one blunders information observe per 3 responsibilities is a good common)

9. Don’t break up commands with notes, cautions, warnings, and first rate cases – Put these items on the stop of the instruction, anywhere possible

10. Be quick, don’t spell the whole lot out, specifically matters that can be taken with no consideration

11. Omit conceptual and be aware statistics in which feasible, or link to it. Perhaps offer growth records on the give up of the topic, plus maybe a word that there are different ways to carry out the task/purpose, but this is the perfect

12. Sections should appearance short and read short

thirteen. Provide closure for sections (e.G., returned to unique screen/goal)

14. Provide a right away opportunity to behave and inspire exploration and innovation (use lively invitations to behave, along with, "See for yourself…" or "Try this…" in place of passive invitations inclusive of, "You can…")

15. Get customers commenced quick

sixteen. Allow for analyzing in any order – make every section modular, in particular goals, but possibly tasks (definitely if they can be completed in different order)

17. Highlight things that aren’t typical

18. Use active voice as opposed to passive voice

19. Try to account for the person’s surroundings for your writing

20. Before writing whatever, ask yourself “Will this assist my reader?”

By building these practices into your documentation process, you’ll locate that your online help will become less complicated to jot down, shorter, and some distance greater usable to your reader. What’s more, your boss will love you!

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