One way to document a confusing user interface

27 08 2007

Someone on one of my technical writing lists posted a link to an unofficial user guide for a piece of software used to report building maintenance issues at the University of Pennsylvania. From reading this guide, it is clear that this software is far from user friendly. Called “The Legend of FacilityFocus“, this underground guide for students is written as though logging a maintenance issue is part of a role-playing game. For example:

This [software] provides wonderful new functions for automation and integration and tracking — but from the point of view of a College House resident trying to get a light-switch fixed or a sink unclogged, the … web interface is not exactly user-friendly.

In fact, you can win only if you know which screens to visit in which order, which fields to fill out and which to ignore, which secret codes to use, and so on.

… [later] OK, you might think that since you want to request work, you should click “Work Request”. But DON’T! That will lead you off into a series of twisty little passages, all alike, where you’ll be eaten by goblins.

Go on, read it – it only takes a couple of minutes.


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