By Edward Barret, ed., The MIT Press, 1989
A collections of essays about writing with the computer and using computers.
[p176] Essay by Edmond H. Weiss, Usability: Stereotypes and Traps […] First, testing a manual only after it is a complete draft is much too late in the life of the publication. By the time a book has reached the draft, its most serious failings are deeply ingrained–``wired in.’’ It is much too late, and probably much too expensive, to correct them.
Second, testing the pieces or
modules'' of a larger publication does little to assuer the usability of the publications as a whole. In just the way that succesfulunit tests’’ of a computer program do not betoken an installed, functional system, neither do succesful tests of the parts of a manual prove that the book will be usable.
If we pursue usability as thought it were an abstract, technical imperative, then we confuse usability with perfection–the same mistake many quality enthusiasts make. Because there cannot be a ``perfectly usable manual,’’ we soon see that what is really meant by a usable manual is one usable eenought to meet our business or management objectives. And a while later, when costs become an issue, usable enough to please readers and customers we most wish to please.
“The On-line Environment and In-House Training” by Barrett and Paradis, is a good article.