Reading Usable Help
@UsableHelp on Twitter
Gordon R. Meyer
Long or tedious: pick one
It's an unfortunate fact that step-by-step instruction for complex procedures can result in long, and intimidating, help pages. While an experienced (and humane) writer will do her best to combine steps and eliminate obvious interactions that are enforced by the software, sometimes screeds cannot be avoided. One way to deal with this is to subdivide the processes into logical units, or more commonly, to divide the pages into a chained series. Instructionally, this can be a valid and useful approach. However, when it can also result in additional interactions that don't allow the user to assess how far along they really are.
In a related article, about web articles that are excessively divided, Mike Davidson writes excessive pagination as a technique for generating traffic and advertising revenue. While much of it doesn't apply to non-revenue documentation projects, the frustration it describes is real and if you use the technique in Help, your system might suffer similarly, or by association.
Thanks to Daring Fireball for the link.