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Gellevij, M., & Van der Meij, H. (2004). Empirical proof for presenting screen captures in software documentation. Technical Communication, 51(2), 224-238.
In 1998, we presented a conceptual framework on screen captures in software documentation (Van der Meij & Gellevij, 1998). The framework suggested that screen captures can serve four main functions to support the user in carrying out a task on the computer: switch attention, develop a mental model of the program, identify & locate window elements and objects, and verify screen states.
This article presents the experiments we have carried out to validate these functions. Each section starts with a brief explanation of the function. Next, we illustrate the screen capture designs used to test the function. The remainder of each section explains the setup and results of the empirical study.
The overall conclusion of the empirical studies presented in this article is that our taxonomy has been validated. There is substantial evidence that users benefit from screen captures that support specific functions. A function-based design approach for screen captures in software manuals helps users learn more, make less mistakes, and do so in a shorter timeframe.
Note: Other joint publications with Mark Gellevij as first author can be accessed by downloading Mark’s doctoral thesis which includes these papers. The address is: