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Online Help Style Guide

John M. Carroll explained the philosophy of minimalist documentation in the Nurnburg Funnel (1990).  The primary concepts for minimalist documentation are:


Train users on real tasks (task orientation)

Provide action-oriented learning (people want to learn by doing)

Help users get started fast (aim: to sustain interest and activity)

Guide discovery and exploration

Rely on the user to think and improvise

Exploit the user’s prior knowledge and experience

Slash the verbiage (brevity - “less is more”)

Make use of incomplete descriptions and instructions:


fading technique


layering as a safety net for minimalist documentation: layering means providing extra information via pop-up windows, tabs, button. and inline help


Support error recognition and recovery

Allow for reading in any order by providing modular units of information (cf. help philosophy)