Handwritten comments on a page margin
Sticky notes on an appliance panel
Context: The artifact is complex and difficult to learn,
but will be used again by the same user or by others. This is common
in Sovereign Posture artifacts, especially
ones that are used infrequently.
User-written comments in Windows Help. I know it can be done, but
I've never found out how, mostly because I almost never use Windows Help
-- it's not easy enough to find specific pages, nor is it close enough
to where I need the help most.
Problem: How can the artifact help preserve the
user's hard-won understanding from one use session to the next?
Solution: Support ways for users to add their own
comments and other annotations to the artifact. Allow the users
to place those annotations physically close to where they are needed, and
if possible, allow for simple drawings in addition to text. Let users
write private comments, for their own eyes only, and also let them write
public ones that other users can read. Save the annotations from
session to session, as a part of the artifact's Remembered
For infrequently-needed details, knowledge "in the world" is better than
knowledge in the user's head -- it is more reliable, and less burdensome
to the user.
Users know better what's memorable to them than the artifact does (or the
The artifact's designer cannot possibly predict all the context or information
needed for it to be used most effectively by certain users.
Users get a sense of ownership and control over the artifact by modifying
The proper spatial placement of help text can increase its effectiveness.
Resulting Context: Make sure the comments are extremely
easy to use, or users are not likely to bother with it -- if it's too much
effort, a user will probably choose to use sticky notes instead, or scribble
a note in the manual's margin or something.
Notes: The truly ambitious designer may even want
to use some kind of revision history. Be careful not to introduce
too much unneeded complexity, of course.
Comments to: email@example.com
Last modified May 17, 1999
Copyright (c) 1999 by Jenifer Tidwell. All rights reserved.