Indexing tangent

Subject: Indexing tangent
From: Bonni_Graham_at_Enfin-SD -at- PROTEON -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 1994 12:47:00 EST

Text item: Text_1

I recently received my entires back from the Semi-regional A&P comp,
and I begin to see why some of you are unhappy with the judging
comments. I got stuff like STRENGTH: "Good integration between text
and graphics." INTEGRATION SCORE: 1 (out of 10). HUNH??? (P.S. the
judge who gave me that score also provided the most useful comments,
in general -- scary.) This is the first time I have been unhappy with
my comments.

One that particularly confused me had to do with the index. The gist
of the comment was that the index would be hard for naive users to use
because I focused on the program, and didn't include enough references
to the user's tasks. Fine as far as it goes (i.e., yes, indexes
should focus on people's tasks, and use the terms they're expecting to
find), except for a few things:

1) The manual documents the program. If the index does not focus on
the topic of the book, what good is it?

2) The program the manual describes is NOT replacing a task that is
currently performed on paper. It is creating an entirely new task
that bears very little relationship to how things are done on paper,
but has nevertheless been lacking in the profession previously. So
how can I use terms that are equivalent to the tasks the user is
already familiar with when those tasks are not what the program does?

3) My idea for the index, given number two above, was that the user
would be using the manual in conjunction with the program. If they
came across a program task that they weren't sure how to do, they
would go to the manual, possibly via the index. In which case, the
index should match the terms in the program as closely as possible.

My questions to you techwhirlers (and maybe even especially to you,
Lori) is what do you think about this? How can you include familiar
tasks in an index for a manual that is revolutionizing a professional
area, rather than simply automating an existing process?

I thought I knew something about indexing, but maybe not...

Bonni Graham |
Technical Writer | Most software is run by
Easel Corporation, ENFIN Technology Lab | confused users acting on
Bonni_Graham_at_Enfin-SD -at- relay -dot- proteon -dot- com | incorrect and incomplete
President, San Diego STC | information, doing things
| the designer never expected.
NOTE: apparently my email address needs |
to be typed exactly as it appears here, | --Paul Heckel, quoted
punctuation and all, or the system gets | by William Horton
upset. |

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