11. user support


Write a manual page for making a cup of coffee. Assume your user has no experience but will recognize a cup, a kettle, a spoon, etc. Swap your manual with a partner. Does your partner's manual give you sufficient instruction to make the cup of coffee? Discuss improvements with your partner and agree on a final version of the manual.


First you have to decide upon the level of granularity at which you are going to work. The aim of the exercise is to demonstrate that it is not as straightforward as it might seem to provide instructions even for a very familiar and well-understood task. Given this, it is most helpful to assume that the user knows very little. The example solution (Table Ex11.1) assumes that the user will recognize objects (perhaps they are labelled) and understands common actions and directions, but not the specific actions required here. Alternatively you could choose to assume that the user does know how to turn on a tap and open a jar.

N.B. The two options could be expanded further if required. Other alternatives could be included, such as getting water from another source.

Table Ex11.1 - Coffee making manual
Manual for making a cup of coffee
Required: an automatic electric kettle, a jar of instant coffee powder or granules, a mug, a teaspoon, a mains water tap (or an alternative source of water), a mains electricity supply, milk (optional), sugar (optional).
CAUTION: Electricity can be dangerous - avoid any contact between electric connections and water.
Boiling water can scald - take care.
To boil water: Ensure plug on kettle is not connected to mains electricity supply.
Remove lid from kettle.
Place kettle directly beneath spout of tap.
Turn tap handle anticlockwise to release water.
When water reaches mark labelled 'full' on kettle turn tap handle clockwise to close off water supply.
Replace kettle lid.
Move kettle to proximity of mains electricity supply.
Place kettle's plug into electricity socket.
Press button marked 'on' on top of kettle to switch kettle on.
When the water has boiled, the kettle will switch off automatically and the 'on' button will return to its original position with a click.
Remove kettle's plug from electricity socket.
To make coffee: Take jar of coffee and remove lid by turning anticlockwise.
Fill teaspoon with coffee.
Place contents of teaspoon in cup.
Replace lid on coffee jar and turn clockwise to tighten.
Pour boiling water from the kettle into the cup up to approximately 1/2 an inch from the top.
Add milk if required (to almost fill cup).
Add sugar if required.
Stir coffee mixture with spoon.
The coffee is now ready to drink.

The discussion should focus on the assumptions that are made. You should make a conscious decision about what assumptions to make, rather than making them by default. This should ensure that the assumptions that are made are appropriate to the particular user.

You could also contrast your answers here, based on the material in this chapter, with the 'making tea' manual in Chapter 15. How useful do you feel task analysis is in designing a manual?

Other exercises in this chapter

ex.11.1 (ans), ex.11.2 (ans), ex.11.3 (ans), ex.11.4 (ans), ex.11.5 (tut), ex.11.6 (tut), ex.11.7 (tut), ex.11.8 (tut), ex.11.9 (tut), ex.11.10 (tut)

all exercises for this chapter