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This thread has been fascinating, especially if you couple it with the
thread on the relative importance of text vs. graphics.
I'm wondering if there isn't an industry trend here that would be worth
discussing as well. I'm reading that a lot of readers/users/customers (take
your pick) are beginning to make selections of products based on how easy
those products will be to install and use. Dell, Gateway, and some of the
newer computer suppliers seem to be gravitating toward making it possible
for the non-technical user to "buy with confidence." Confidence that they
can assemble and install the product themselves. It would seem that some of
the software providers are looking at the same need: to be able to meet the
needs of the non-technical market that will only buy their products if they
come either pre-loaded or very easy to install.
If this is an actual trend, and not a segment idiosyncrasy or temporary
market exigency, wouldn't that bode well for the writer who can understand
complicated systems and software enough to explain them more simply? If so,
I would expect going forward to hear more from writers whose customers are
asking them to make the documentation more useable for non-techies.
Might this also mean we'll see a resurgence of the Technical Illustrator?
Speaking for myself, I'm a lousy artist. If I have to actually draw
something, rather than just create flows or block diagrams, it usually comes
out looking like one of Charlie Brown's clouds in the sky: it is whatever
you think it is. <g>
Lots of disconnected thoughts here, but I like the trend toward making
things more accessible to more people. All the techies probably have plenty
of computers and software. If the markets aren't to stagnate, the products
will probably have to get more user friendly, and so will the documentation.