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The Diagnosis-Resolution Structure in Troubleshooting Procedures . David K . Farkas Dept. of Human Centered Design & Engineering University of Washington Seattle, Washington, USA http://faculty.washington.edu/farkas/ farkas@u.wasington.edu. Big idea.

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the diagnosis resolution structure in troubleshooting procedures

The Diagnosis-Resolution Structure in Troubleshooting Procedures

David K . Farkas

Dept. of Human Centered Design & Engineering

University of Washington

Seattle, Washington, USA

http://faculty.washington.edu/farkas/

farkas@u.wasington.edu

big idea
Big idea
  • Troubleshooting procedures always exhibit a diagnosis-resolution structure
  • Understanding this structure leads to important insights for design
presentation vs proceedings paper
Presentation vs. proceedings paper
  • Proceedings paper has more depth
  • Presentation has more illustrations and explicit guidelines
  • The presentation slides are available here:

http://faculty.washington.edu/farkas/IPCC.pptx

acknowledgments
Acknowledgments
  • Connie Olberg (formerly) at Microsoft and her user support team
troubleshooting content is problem focused
Troubleshooting content is problem focused

Is this your problem?Here is how to fix it.

Problem = Symptom

similar to medical diagnosis and treatment
Similar to medical diagnosis and treatment
  • Similar to a doctor asking a patient to describe symptoms and then indicating treatment
  • Even more similar to a first-aid manual
in most cases this problem is a bug incompatibility or component failure
In most cases this problem is a bug, incompatibility, or component failure

EZGrab 3.0 freezes or closes unexpectedly

My computer no longer plays audio or produces any sound from the speakers or headset

tps are written for
TPs are written for . . .
  • Support Centers/KBs (Knowledge Bases)
  • Help systems and manuals
  • Forum posts
  • Etc.
forums are an alternative to tps
Forums are an alternative to TPs

2/20/09 6:17 pm

Tony: I used to be able to open two different ppt files in different windows. But somehow when I open the file it shows up in only one window.

2/20/09 11:46 pm

Mike MVP: Open both your presentations, then select the View Tab, Arrange All. Always a good idea to mention which version of PowerPoint your using.

2/21/09 8:46 pm

Tony: Maybe you misunderstand what I meant. I mean that when you open two ppt files, the screen will show . . .

tps always exhibit a diagnosis resolution structure simplest case

M

TPs always exhibit a diagnosis-resolution structure: Simplest case

Diagnosis

phase

Title

Describes symptom

Resolution

phase

Explains method

more complex problems will exhibit multiple symptoms
More complex problems will exhibit multiple symptoms

Title

I cannot connect to the service

  • Possible causes with their own specific symptoms:
    • Browser settings
    • Router problems
    • Firewall settings
    • Wi-Fi Internet connection problems
    • Parental control software
    • Service is down
    • Older version of client software
multiple symptoms in a flat list

S

S

S

S

Multiple symptoms in a flat list

I cannot connect to the service

Title

Broad symptom

Diagnosisphase

Specific symptoms

tree of symptoms

S

S

S

S

S

S

Tree of symptoms

Broad symptom

Title

More specific symptoms

Diagnosisphase

Still more specific symptoms

slide20

Tree of symptoms

=

“I am having trouble with my modem”

Statements of symptoms

S

S

S

S

isolating the cause
Isolating the cause

More specific statements of symptoms

S

S

S

key distinction method vs solution path
Key distinction: Method vs. solution path
  • Method: A single procedure intended to solve a problem
  • Solution path: A broader approach to solving a problem, usually consisting of several related methods

P

M M M

=

a solution path consisting of multiple methods fixed sequence

M

M

M

A solution path consisting of multiple methods(fixed sequence)

J

J

Resolution phase

J

Contact your system administrator

a solution path consisting of multiple methods fixed sequence27

M M M

M M M

M M M

A solution path consisting of multiple methods(fixed sequence)

Resolution phase

J

J

J

J

J

J

J

J

J

a solution path consisting of multiple methods variable sequence28

M M M

M M M

M M M

A solution path consisting of multiple methods(variable sequence)

Resolution phase

J

J

J

J

J

J

J

J

J

you can empower users to choose solution path based on their own priorities

P

You can empower users to choose solution path based on their own priorities

Path splits with user decision

P

P

general guidelines tech comm instructional design etc
General guidelines (tech comm, instructional design, etc.)
  • To minimize expenditure of time and effort, strive for clarity, brevity, etc
  • To minimize user’s risk of failure, provide sufficient information, accurate information, etc
  • To motivate users to attempt and stick with TPs, strive for an unintimidating appearance and offer encouragement
example motivating users at the outset of a tp
Example: Motivating users at the outset of a TP

This method has a high probability of success. It is lengthy but easy to follow.

users must be to identify the tp that applies to their problem
Users must be to identify the TP that applies to their problem
  • Phrase titles and symptom descriptions carefully (at audience’s level)
  • Error messages are excellent symptoms, especially when they are specific to a particular problem
  • Sometimes you need two articles, each articulating a different symptom
be wary of titles that express causation
Be wary of titles that express causation

The application will not initialize

two titles each describing very different symptoms of the same problem
Two titles, each describing very different symptoms of the same problem

My connection speed is sometimes very slow

The status light sometimes flashes red

strive for a specific understanding of the problem
Strive for a specific understanding of the problem
  • The more you know about the problem, the simpler the resolution phase
favor variables sequences favor user empowerment
Favor variables sequences. Favor user empowerment.
  • When possible, bypass methods and solution paths that won’t work
  • When possible, allow the user to choose a solution path that meets their particular needs
decide how deeply to explain the cause of the problem
Decide how deeply to explain the cause of the problem
  • Most users don’t care about the cause
  • When user actions brought on the problem, it is necessary to explain how to prevent a recurrence
be wary of very difficult methods be wary of too many methods
Be wary of very difficult methods. Be wary of too many methods
  • Lengthy procedures and articles are demotivators
  • Difficult methods are demotivators
    • Recognize the law of diminishing returns
    • When appropriate, hand off to live support, etc
tps will remain important
TPs will remain important
  • User’s often need assistance
  • Vendor is often the best or only source of reliable information
  • Finding a balance:
    • Crafted content
    • Remote intervention
    • Users helping users