CS552. User Interface Design

Assignment 3. Online Documentation and Error Messages

Size of team: 2 (Team A is Chisholm and Schlatter; Team B is Nelson and Wang)
What's due: Online "manual" for users of template GUI code from Assignment 2, organized for novices versus experienced users.
When it's due: Midnight on Tuesday, April 28

To Do...

For this assignment, you will develop Web-based, "minimalist"-style online documentation that explains how the template GUI code should be modified to create arbitrary GUIs. In particular, you should provide guidance on the kinds of modifications you made for Assignment 2 (how to control color use, how to add the different types of menus, etc.).

Because the needs of newcomers differ from those of people who have already used the template code, you will prepare two sets of documentation:

See Chapter 15.1 for a description of the minimalist approach (recent releases of several popular software packages have taken this approach, so you might want to survey some online help systems, too.) Remember that the intent of online documentation is to help focus the user's attention to one key item or feature at a time, as explained in Chapter 5.1. The fact that novice users need fuller explanations, while expert users mainly need something to jog their memory, should also be taken into account.

Part of the assignment is to figure out how you will direct the user to the appropriate level of documentation.

The objective is to be as clear and concise as possible, while still meeting the needs of the two target user groups. You are encouraged to use diagrams or code fragments where these would help to clarify use of the template code. You might also want to provide information on relevant design guidelines.

Specific Directions. Develop any number of Web pages in any format that you think makes the template GUI Code completely unambiguous and easy to learn. Remember that minimalist documentation concentrates on user actions and possible mistakes -- it should not be a comprehensive textbook on the topic of GUI design!

To provide the "entries" into your Web pages, create a file called index.html that has a list of text strings, that you would propose to add to the GUI template code's Help menu. Each of these "menu items" should make it clear what type of help will be accessed, and should link to an appropriate location in your documentation. Don't forget to include "cues" in the documentation itself that will let the reader know that more advanced (or more basic) info is also available.

Note that all URLs should be in relative form (e.g., "href=myfile.html") rather than absolute form ("href=http://www.cs.....").

Collaborating with Others...

You may discuss general ideas with any of your classmates, but each team should develop its own strategy for supporting novice/expert users, and prepare its own documentation.

To Hand In...

Use the hand-in form to submit the location of a directory containing the Web pages for your documentation, including a file index.html which lists the "Help menu items" that would provide interactive access to your documentation, directly from the GUI template code demo.