Re: Documentation for Beta Users

Subject: Re: Documentation for Beta Users
From: "Elna Tymes" <etymes -at- lts -dot- com>
To: "MacLemale, Laura A. (LNG-MBC)" <Laura -dot- A -dot- MacLemale -at- bender -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2000 12:21:54 -0800

MacLemale, Laura A. (LNG-MBC) wrote:

> Are there any statistics available concerning user preference of a manual
> vs. online help for software documentation? Any information or resources
> that you might have on this topic would be appreciated.
> 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 database.

Don't I wish there were statistics on this! The last time I researched this one
(about four months ago) there was, basically, only anecdotal information about
what kinds of users prefer their information online and what kind read the
manuals. Jared Spool's website had a study (with only six users!) that said
that programmers tend to read everything, including manpages in Unix, before
beginning a project, and that system admins prefer not to use online help
because they don't want anything cluttering their screen while they're working
with real data, so they sit there with a desk covered with books open to
relevant pages. Private, unpublished studies by book publishers tend to
indicate that garden-variety end users prefer friendly, step-by-step books but
that more sophisticated users tend to like online help.

I really wish somebody in a university setting would do a statistically
defensible study on just this topic!

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

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