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Constructing a Task List

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  1. Constructing a Task List ITSW 1410 Presentation Media Software Instructor: Glenda H. Easter

  2. Creating a Task List • In creating a task list, you create a descriptive model of the program features. • Individual tasks look like procedures, but they do so as an outline of tasks rather than something users could follow. • You are the real audience for task lists. • It’s a planning tool. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  3. Guidelines for Creating a Task List • Determine the right level of detail. • Categorize the program tasks. • Link the tasks with menu features. • Write steps as actions. • Break up long tasks into subtasks. • Don’t list options as steps. • Test your task list. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  4. Categorize the Program Tasks • Identify task that fall into specialized categories and separate them from the typical user tasks. As a rule, you will document them in separate sections of the document. • Identifying and naming user tasks is the second most important task in writing documentation. It follows that of your user analysis. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  5. Categorize the Program Tasks (Continued) • Installation: Tasks that get the user onto the User’s System. • Installation tasks almost always appear at the beginning of a manual or in a separate section or document. • The user should use a hard-copy of the installation instructions because until the online help system is available, the hard copy is all the user has. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  6. Categorize the Program Tasks (Continued) • Configuration: Tasks that get the software set up correctly. • Configuration refers to setting up the software so it will work in the user’s hardware environment. • Configuring allows the user to record individual preferences about a program. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  7. Categorize the Program Tasks (Continued) • How can you identify configuration tasks? Some names include: • customizing, setting up, setting options, setting preferences. • Installation only happens once, but configuration can occur often during the use of a program a the user changes hardware elements or decides to customize the program in different ways. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  8. Categorize the Program Tasks (Continued) • Generally, procedures are appropriate for configurations and and installations as opposed to tutorials. • The user only needs to perform such operations once or intermittently and has no need to internalize or memorize them. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  9. Characteristics of Tasks • Tasks are independent of one another. • Characteristics of a Task: • Independent of other tasks • Short duration (usually under 12 steps) • Goal-oriented • Has starting and ending points • Made up of steps • Often relates to a menu function Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  10. Naming the Task • Observe certain conventions in naming tasks. • You can always use the program-oriented naming convention, “The Sort Function” • Tasks can often use “ing” terms. It suggests things people do in the workplace. • You can name tasks using “How to” terms. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  11. Write Steps as Actions • Identify tasks according to what the user would do with the program. • Tasks break down into steps, each in chronological order. • When you have broken the actions of a task into the smallest sensible unit, you have found the steps. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  12. Guidelines for Numbering and Wording Steps • Some tasks may only have one step, many have four or five, and a few have as many as twelve. • You can subdivide tasks with over twelve steps into groups of subtasks, but avoid the unnecessary complication of subsets. • If the task requires a tool (such as the keyboard, mouse, light pen, digitizer pen) indicate it. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  13. Guidelines for Numbering and Wording Steps (Continued) • Use numbers or have a good reason to deviate. Later, you may change, if desired. • Use the command form of the verb for steps. • Click • Press • Choose • Type Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  14. Rules on Task Lists • Break Long Tasks into Subtasks: Subtasks should be used when you have long tasks (over twelve steps, usually). • Don’t list options as steps. Generally, options fall into the following three categories: • keyboard options, menu options, and mouse options • Test your task list which is called validation. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  15. Rules on Task Lists (Continued) • Tasks lists are for writers, not for users. • Users can give you insight into useful groupings of tasks--by degrees or difficulty, job-related topics, or assignments of tasks to different user groups-- so you may want to get their review. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  16. Rules on Task Lists (Continued) • Work on your tasks list simultaneously with your interviews and other research activities with the software users. • A task list gets you involved with the program and how it works. • The task list concentrates on the general uses of the program. The task list contains all the functions of the program. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  17. Rules on Task Lists (Continued) • When you have completed the task list, at least in a draft version, you should have become something of an expert in the use of the program and will have as record of your learning (often by trial and error) that can help as a resource document in the preparation of manuals. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  18. The Format Facilitates Reading and Integration • Use the task list for writing reference documents. • Documents that provide data to enable experienced users of the program to find specific pieces of information are called reference documents. • Most of the reference material will consist of lists of commands and short explanations, definitions of key terms, tables of shortcuts, error numbers, switching settings, and similar items. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  19. Task List -Vs- Overall Project • Online Help can be integrated into the information you have in your online system. • This can be done with the use of hypertext buttons and other linking technology. • The number of tasks and their complexity or simplicity determine the scope of your entire project. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  20. Organizing Tasks Into Categories • Some categories for organizing tasks include the following: • the degree of difficulty • sequence of job-related use of tasks • specified job titles • people who perform the job. • Not all users will perform all tasks on your list. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  21. Put Tasks and Users Into a Matrix • You can relate certain tasks to different users by creating a matrix, • On may list the task down the left-hand side of the page, and the users across the top. • As you move down the list of tasks, you can place an “x” by those users who will use the program. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  22. Page and Time Estimates • You must have two key estimates: • How many pages the project will take. • How long it will take to write the documents. • After you consider the kind of documents you will create and the amount of detail you will need, you can calculate an estimated total number of pages that you will need all together. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  23. Other Factors in Estimating the Total Number of Pages • A number of factors can influence the Actual total number of pages: • User experience • Page layout • Amount of command summaries (descriptions of program features and their uses) Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  24. Estimate of Time to Project • Industry guidelines for estimating the time of a project is 2.9 hours for every page of documentation. • Use this number to multiply by the total number of pages to gain a rough estimation of time. • There are factors that will increase the amount of time, i.e. page layout, and testing. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  25. Formula for Estimating Preliminary Page Count • A task list will product one or more document types: • A procedure that guides the user through steps. • A procedure that is rich with detail • A tutorial following a scenario • A rich detail tutorial • A sparse reference. Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  26. To Create This Document Format Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3

  27. To Create This Document Format Constructing a Task List, Chp. 3