The effects of screen captures in manuals: A textual and two visual manuals compared.

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The study examines the use of screen captures in manuals. Three designs of manuals were compared, one textual and two visual manuals. The two visual manuals differed in the type of screen capture that was used. One had screen captures that showed only the relevant part of the screen, whereas the other consisted of captures of the full screen. All manuals contained exactly the same textual information. We examined the time used on carrying out procedures (manual used as a job aid) and the results on retention tests (manual used for learning). We expected to find a trade-off between gain in time and learning effects. That is, we expected that higher scores on the retention tests involved an increase in time used and, vice versa, that gains in time would lead to lower retention test scores. We also explored the influence of manual design on user motivation. For job-aid purposes, there were no differences between manuals. For learning, the full-screen captures manual and the textual manual were significantly better than the partial-screen captures manual. There was no proof for the expected trade-off. More learning was not caused by an increase in time used. We found no effects on user motivation. This study does not yield convincing evidence to support the presence of screen captures in manuals. However, if one wants to include screen captures, this study gives clarity for the type of screen capture to choose. The use of full-screen captures is preferable to partial ones. Finally, we conclude that documentation designed to expedite the execution of tasks does not necessarily hamper the learning that may result
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-92
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE transactions on professional communication
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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