RE: Documentation for Beta Users

Subject: RE: Documentation for Beta Users
From: "Jason A. Czekalski" <topsidefarm -at- mva -dot- net>
To: TECHWR-L digest <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2000 11:49:15 -0800

<Laura -dot- A -dot- MacLemale -at- bender -dot- com> wrote:
End-users are more likely to be non-techies than techies, of various
who want to find information quickly and easily from a searchable

I agree with the beginning of this statement, and disagree with the end.
As someone who came to both computers and tech writing recently (6
years and 2 years, respectively), I think I have a lot to add to this

First, many end users, even today, are older individuals. They are in
the 35+ age bracket and grew up, and learned to read, before the
computer became an everyday item in our lives. No matter how much time
they spend using a computer, many will never develope the ease that
younger folks have with the computer. They are, by definition,
non-techies. BTW, I am part of that older generation (not quite 40).

With this background in mind, I strongly disagree with the "searchable
database" statement. Having a very broad employment background
(medicine, law, and manufacturing), I can tell you that the most
important component of any large documnet is the index. I've seen it
first hand. A lawyer picks up a book of statutes and where does he or
she go, the index. A doctor picks up a Merck Manual and goes right to
the index. A machinist picks up The Machinery's Handbook and he also
goes right to the index. Anyone of these people picks up a computer book
and three guesses where they turn. It's an old habit that they are not
going to change. These are old-line professions and trades that are now
heavily computerized. However, the majority of the folks involved in
them were involved in them long before computers came on the scene.
These are book oriented people.
And these three fields are not unique. Any career field the existed
before the 1990's is the same way. And then you have to consider the
percentage of the population that is over 35. They are the vast majority
of your audience. Remember, we seldom actually write for our employer or
customer, we write for our employer's or customer's customer.

Books are still important for most applications, and the index is one of
the most important parts of that book.


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