Textual cognetics and the role of iconic linkage in software user guides
Byrne, Jody (2004) Textual cognetics and the role of iconic linkage in software user guides. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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This study investigates whether Iconic Linkage - the use of the identical wording to present the same information recurring in a text - can improve the usability of user guides. Drawing on research literature in technical communication, cognitive psychology and human-computer interfaces, Iconic Linkage is presented as a writing strategy that potentially allows users to work more quickly and effectively and which promotes better retention of information. The usefulness of Iconic Linkage was tested in a laboratory-based usability study that combined (1) objective task-based evaluation and (2) users’ subjective evaluations of a software program used in recording parliamentary debates. A post-test survey designed to test subjects’ retention of information contained in the user guides was also administered. The study shows that Iconic Linkage significantly improved usability of the user guide: in all tasks, subjects worked more effectively and made fewer mistakes; while in the three timed tasks, subjects completed the tasks much more quickly. Subjects also gave higher ratings for the software and their retention of information was noticeably improved. The study concludes by discussing the implications and potential future applications of this research.
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