How does one write a user's guide without users?

Subject: How does one write a user's guide without users?
From: "Anthony Markatos" <tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: anonfwd -at- raycomm -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Wed, 01 Mar 2000 16:38:00 PST

Anonfwd said:

It [a software program developed for 'in-house' use] hasn't really been used [in-house] on a steady basis. The software is now being targeted to an outside audience....

Tony Markatos responds:

It probably was not used in-house much because of poor usability. And now they are going to market it to the outside world?? Better minds than me.

Anonfwd continues with the question:

.......I have no idea who the intended [outside end-user] is to be. How does on write a user's guide without users? Any advice, comments, suggestions?

Tony Markatos responds:

It is currently a big no-no in usability circles to 'pretend' anything about the end-users. However, given that they will not send you out into the field to do a end-user task analysis, you have to pretend (as do most Technical Writers). Possibilities include:

* Pretend that the in-house users are exactly like the future out-house users.

* If you can not ID the in-house users, or - and this is probably more likely - you can't use them because they don't really know about the product (nor do they care to know about the product), then let your imagination run wild and pretend that you are the future users.

Tony Markatos
(tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com)

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