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Divide tasks into discrete subtasks

After you identify your main tasks, you need to divide them into discrete subtasks so that you can provide usable step-level information. If you tried to provide step-level information for the main task of writing a news story, you would have thousands of steps. Instead, you divide the task of writing a news story into its main subtasks, for example, researching the material, drafting an outline, writing a first draft, and revising the draft. Repeat the process of dividing tasks until you have groups of tasks for which you can provide step-level information.

Keep in mind that the number of steps in each task and subtask should be nine or fewer, as discussed in the clarity guideline "Keep elements short" on page 124. If you find that a task takes more than nine steps to do, determine whether the task can be divided again or whether some steps can be nested under others. For more information about nesting steps, see the guideline "Group steps for usability" on page 38 of this chapter.

Before you write task information, you need to know how the task is related to other tasks. You need to understand the task sequences, levels of tasks, and interdependencies. Is the task really a discrete task? Does it have subordinate tasks? Is it a subtask of a larger task? Is it a subtask of more than one task?

Although this guideline applies to task orientation, it does overlap with the following organization guidelines: "Organize information into discrete topics by type" on page 218 and "Organize tasks by order of use" on page 222.

The following task overview is organized according to the order that the user should do the subtasks. You can easily replace this overview with a high-level task that lists appropriate subtasks.


To migrate to version 8, you need to read these topics:

  • Hardware requirements

  • Software requirements

  • Applying the latest updates

  • Stopping InfoProduct processes

  • Backing up your infoproduct.inf file

  • Running the migration utility for Windows

  • Running the migration utility for UNIX

  • Verifying migration

  • Setting up a new profile


To migrate to version 8:

  1. Ensure that you have the correct hardware and software:

    • Hardware requirements

    • Software requirements

  2. Apply the latest updates.

  3. Stop all InfoProduct processes.

  4. Back up your infoproduct.inf file.

  5. Run the migration utility.

    • On Windows

    • On UNIX

  6. Verify the migration.c

  7. Set up a new profile.

After you finish migrating InfoProduct, you can start the processes again.

The revision shows the relationship of the subtasks to each other and to the higher-level task. The revision also mentions what to do after completing the task.

The following list of topics shows a hierarchy of tasks in which the task of verifying the installation is combined with the task of configuring parameters:


Installing InfoProduct

  • Checking software

    • Linux

    • Windows

  • Starting installation

    • Linux

    • Windows

  • Configuring parameters and verifying installation

    • Linux

    • Windows

In the original list, the task of verifying installation is repeated for both Linux and Windows operating systems. The task of verifying installation is not part of the task of configuring parameters. One user might verify the installation while another user configures the parameters. The two tasks should not be combined.


Installing InfoProduct

  • Checking software

    • Linux

    • Windows

  • Starting installation

    • Linux

    • Windows

  • Configuring parameters

    • Linux

    • Windows

  • Verifying installation

The revision shows verifying installation as the last, discrete task at the same level as the other main subtasks of installing the product. The revision allows for a logical separation of different tasks.

Consider the case in which a user might need to configure additional parameters at some time other than during installation. Seeing the steps for verifying installation with the steps for configuring parameters does not make sense to that user. In addition, if the steps for verifying installation are the same on Linux as those on Windows, you can write the information once instead of repeating those steps in the topic for Linux and the topic for Windows.

Be sure to separate your tasks into discrete subtasks such that each subtask contains only one distinct task, yet contains sufficient content to stand alone.

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Last Update: November 17, 2020