Integration and iteration of documentation and interactive systems development via the User Action Notation (UAN)

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Virginia Tech

Deficiencies in user documentation leave users frustrated, annoyed and alienated. Legalistic, system-oriented texts are not well suited for active users. The primary goals of documentation are education, motivation and communication. An extensive survey of current literature reveals four interrelated keys to good documentation. Specifically these are:

• style/organization • audience appropriateness • usability • learnability.

Users are active, documentation should not hinder nor inhibit that activity. To accomplish this, documentation needs to be user focused such as in the task oriented or minimalist styles. Documentation, in this vein, is an integral part of the system. To improve usability generally requires an iterative development structure. However, integration and iteration are rather difficult due to the lack of a common frame of reference. The literature suggests a series of guidelines or strategies to facilitate document development. These strategies may be utilized with the User Action Notation to generate task oriented skeletal documentation from UAN descriptions. This provides a common frame of reference, improved user documentation and enhanced integrated development for the whole design effort.