The Cover Sheet Pattern
Gives a quick summary of the main points that the user should pay attention to, before she is directed to all of the complex information and details that waits beyond.
The cover sheet can orient a user, give a bird’s eye view to orient her in the system and what she’s about to learn, and can help her to prioritize what information to pay attention to and what to ignore.
Type of Design
Good for Contexts like
Understanding the System
Engagement in the System
Making a Strategic Decision
Problems & Contexts It Can Work For
Use a Cover Sheet when you have a lot of information to be presenting the user, and you want to make sure that she pays attention to some key points, and that she is wearing the right ‘lenses’ when approaching the detailed information.
The Cover Sheet can give her the initial framework to the info that will guide her through a strategic reading of it, so she knows how to understand the info and how to weigh options, and have it make sense for her own situation.
It is also a good place to put red flags, common mistakes, warnings, and other problems that you have seen that other users tend to ‘get wrong’.
How to Make It
Use a Word Processor in which you can lay out either a simple page, or a multi-column page. This may be Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
Or you can make more interactive Cover Sheets for web or app content, using your programming skills. The cover sheet can be a ‘splash page’ or introductory part of the digital experience for your user. You don’t need to have a separate, titled “Cover Sheet”, but rather you can still provide this strategic summary of info before you open up all the detailed info to your user.