Documentation preferences for beta users?

Subject: Documentation preferences for beta users?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 10:44:37 -0500

Laura MacLemale wondered <<Are there any statistics available concerning
user preference of a manual vs. online help for software documentation?...
End-users are more likely to be non-techies than techies, of various ages,
who want to find information quickly and easily from a searchable

There may be statistics, but they're not likely to be broadly useful unless
they apply to an audience that is very similar to your actuall audience.
Since you mentioned in the message header that this is beta software, you
have a great opportunity here: collect the statistics yourself by asking
those who request an opportunity to use the beta software what form of
documentation they prefer! This is easy enough to do: simply make indicating
their preferences (or responding to a really short audience analysis survey)
the price of receiving the beta software. This also gives you several months
(i.e., until the end of the beta period) to adjust your doc strategy
correspondingly. If you can establish an ongoing relationship with some of
the users, you can get ongoing feedback on your documentation too.

Anecdotal suggestion: My opinion (personal experience as a beta tester) is
that paper docs work best in the early stages of beta testing, and that
online help can be added to subsequent builds once you learn what subjects
the users want to cover in the online help.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Hofstadter's Law: The time and effort required to complete a project are
always more than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's

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