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In sum

Task-oriented information focuses on the user's tasks and is presented from the user's perspective. Divide task information into tasks and subtasks. Provide steps that are clear, imperative, and grouped for usability. Do not clutter task topics with conceptual information. Get your users “on task” as quickly as possible.

This chapter provides guidelines to help you ensure that your topics are task oriented. Refer to the examples in the chapter for practical applications of these guidelines.

When you review technical information for task orientation, you can use the checklist on page 46 in two ways:

  • As a reminder of what to look for, to ensure a thorough review

  • As an evaluation tool, to determine the quality of the information

Based on the number and severity of items that you find, decide how the information rates on each guideline for this quality characteristic. You can then add your findings to “Quality checklist” on page 387, which covers all the quality characteristics.

Although the guidelines are intended to cover all areas for this quality characteristic, you might find additional items to add to the list for a guideline.

Guidelines for task orientationItems to look forQuality rating
Write for the intended audience.
  • Audience is clearly defined.

  • Tasks are appropriate for the intended audience.

1 2 3 4 5
Present information from the user's point of view.
  • Information is directed at the user.

  • Information denotes what the user does, as opposed to what the product does.

  • Contextual help reflects the user's position.

1 2 3 4 5
Indicate a practical reason for information.
  • Details relate to tasks.

  • Conceptual information supports the task.

  • Only a necessary amount of conceptual information appears before a task.

1 2 3 4 5
Focus on real tasks, not product functions.
  • Information focuses on real tasks, not artificial tasks.

  • Focus is on tasks, not features and interface elements.

1 2 3 4 5
Use headings that reveal the tasks.
  • Headings reveal tasks.

  • Headings do not contain pseudo tasks.

1 2 3 4 5
Divide tasks into discrete subtasks
  • Relationship of tasks to subtasks is clear.

  • Subtasks are discrete.

1 2 3 4 5
Provide clear, step-by-step instructions
  • The first sentence of each step includes an imperative verb.

  • Steps are weighted appropriately.

  • Substeps and unordered lists are used appropriately.

  • Optional steps are clearly marked.

  • Conditional steps begin with the condition.

1 2 3 4 5
Note: The scale for the quality rating goes from very satisfied (1) to very dissatisfied (5).

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