RE: Self-explanatory installation

Subject: RE: Self-explanatory installation
From: "Beth Kane" <bethkane -at- tcisolutions -dot- com>
To: <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 11:41:37 -0700

Instead of writing a long manual about your Setup, you can create an online
Help system. We did that for several applications when I worked for
Artisoft. The first Help topic would open by default, and users had to
consciously close Help to get rid of it. And they didn't have to hit the
Help button for each new window. By default, the Help window would appear
alongside each Setup window UNLESS they consciously closed the Help window
at some point (then it would stay gone unless they clicked Help). The
benefit is that the information is right there on-screen -- no page-turning
is required, and no screen captures either. Sophisticated users could close
Help and never reopen it if they liked. No money was spent on paper docs. (I
think that people would be inclined not to use your paper Setup instructions
as you describe them.)

As far as whether you should even bother to say things like Click Next, it
depends on your audience. I would generally say yes, state the obvious.

Regarding your example and comment:
> "Please enter the socket number on which the Authorisation
> Service will listen for authorisations. Usually, this will be 2050."
> What is there left for the technical writer to add? A discussion
> about sockets? An exhortation to click Next?
You don't necessarily have to explain terms that are common in the software
industry. You can say the defaults are recommended, then offer additional
information about the non-default settings (as someone else on this list has
already mentioned). This is very convenient to do with online Help because
you can create a LINK to this additional, detailed information -- so the
information is not in the way of those who don't need it, as it would
probably be in a paper manual. Those who want it can click and go to it.
Especially because your software is customized for each client, it seems to
me that an online information solution is preferable.

I would lean toward explaining things that are unique to your software. For
example, give the reason _why_ 2050 is a good setting (such as better
performance). At Artisoft, we found that if we didn't tell the reasons WHY,
many people would call up to find out! I see it as my job to head off phone

You should get together with your tech support people and find out what
users are calling about. What are the typical problems? That'll give you an
idea of what parts of Setup need more detailed information. If the product
(or others like it) hasn't been released yet, you can find out what the beta
testers are asking about.

Beth Kane
bethkane -at- tcisolutions -dot- com

-----Original Message-----
<Snip>For some time now, my company has been producing installation manuals
guide the user through each step of the installation process....Does anyone
have any comments/suggestions on how to improve our installation guides?

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