SOP Procedures: 5 Ways to Orient Readers

What do we mean by the location in procedures? It’s WHERE the user performs the actual task. Inexperienced procedure writers often assumes the reader will know where to perform the action. But this is not always the case. Often readers are starting cold. How can you fix this?

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Procedure writers need to put themselves in the reader’s shoes, for example:

  1. Location – identify where in the application the procedure is performed, for example, [this task] is performed  on this [tab] on [this] window.
  2. Prerequisites – highlight if it’s necessary to perform any tasks, for example, selecting a checkbox on another window in order to make another window appear. Another consideration is if this window needs to be specified in a configuration file or selected from a menu bar if it’s not displayed out of the box.
  3. Location in user interface – identify where in the application the task is performed. Provide directions to the exact location where the procedure is performed, for example, if the window contains several panes, then highlight either with a graphic or state the name of the pane. Likewise, if the window has tabs, highlight which tab to use.  Use the same convention to define the location path in other procedures.
  4. Position in Procedure – decide to add these directions, for example, directly after the first lead paragraph, so the reader can identify the location immediately. Remove any frustration for the user by orienting them in the application. This helps them perform the procedure without having to go to other pages to determine the location.
  5. Links – if linking to the page, for example, in online help, use the same phrasing in your links. Instead of saying Click Here, provide more useful information, for example, to create a report, see the Report window, and then link Report window to the appropriate page.

What else would you add?

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