Traditional technical manuals consist primarily of text supplemented by tabular and graphic presentation of information. In the past decade technical information systems have increasingly been authored for presentation on computers instead of on paper; however a stable set of standards for such manuals has yet to evolve. There are strong beliefs but little empirical evidence to guide standards development within companies producing Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs).
The current study compares three different modes of instruction presentation for mechanical assembly tasks (graphic, text, and auditory), using a Wizard of Oz paradigm. Study participants preferred graphically-presented information and they completed the tasks fastest using this presentation mode. We found no significant difference in performance or preference between text and audio conditions. Nevertheless users indicated a clear desire that graphic presentation be supplemented by other modes. Study results will be useful for designers of multi-modal interfaces for online instruction systems.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/alexander_rudnicky/12/