RE: Good Manuals - Why Rare.

Subject: RE: Good Manuals - Why Rare.
From: "Humbird, LenX" <lenx -dot- humbird -at- intel -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 15:43:33 -0800

If a concept can be communicated in less time using a graphic rather than
text, then graphic artists should be producing manuals, not us. The goodness
of a manual is subjective: the reader is doing the translating, converting a
manual's content into an idea, and then into action.

The purposes of a manual and a novel are diametrically opposed. With a
novel, you read for pleasure to allow time to pass pleasurably. With a
manual, every minute the reader spends trying to comprehend a concept or
procedure is time not spend being productive. The less time the reader has
to deal with the manual, the better.

Words are not always the most efficient symbols for conveying an idea. If a
single well-designed graphic can take the place of one or more steps in a
procedure, several things take place: comprehension goes up, time spent
learning goes down, and the need for localization (language translation)
goes down. The issue to be tackled is, how much more time and money can a
business tolerate spending on these benefits? A manual is part of the
company's PR package. How refreshing it would be to unburden a requirement
that a customer read in order to comprehend.

As tech writers, we can all eventually learn to "bang out" concepts and
procedures quickly. But how many of us can sketch out a decent diagram on a
white board - let alone pilot Adobe Illustrator? How many of us just *know*
the appropriate place where an illustration should be?

Of course, in a really, really perfect world, we would have little use for
manuals because the technology would be constructed intuitively, so that
even to the idiots of the world can understand it. Tell me: am I crazy for
not wanting to live in a world where you can't tell the smart people form
the idiots?!

Nevermind - don't answer that.

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