Re: Interesting Product Review - Reading the Manual

Subject: Re: Interesting Product Review - Reading the Manual
From: "Gerry Gaffney" <gerry -at- infodesign -dot- com -dot- au>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000 07:52:12 +1000

The ideal system is so easy to use that no documentation is required, or
rather what little documentation is required is part of the user interface.

From the user's perspective, a system that needs no explanation is clearly
better (although supporting documentation such as requirements,
specifications and dealing with complex situations may be necessary).

Over the last few years, I've spent a lot of time with dozens of users of a
variety of systems (conventional and web-based). If I were to indulge in
sweeping generalisations, I'd say that:

- Very few users read online documentation.
- Some users read manuals, some don't. There who don't, won't.
- Most users seem to love 'cheat sheets', quick reference guides, and the
like, that provide 'just-in-time' information.

I don't believe there is anything we can do to 'to encourage ... users [to]
read the manuals we create', other than making them as useful, short and
accessible as possible. If we do the same with our software, then we give
users what they deserve - usable, well-constructed software supported by
useful, well-designed documentation (and world peace).

- Gerry

Gerry Gaffney
Information & Design

+61 3 9521 5123
+61 409 424 404 mobile
+61 3 9521 5124 fax

PO Box 1255
Windsor VIC 3181

----- Original Message -----
From: Bill Hartzer <BHartzer -at- cha-systems -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Sent: Tuesday, 18 April 2000 12:54
Subject: Interesting Product Review

> Hi,
> I just read this "software product review" recently published
> in a well-known publication which shall remain nameless. No wonder
> no one reads the manuals work so hard to create!
> The "media" is encouraging it!
> What can we do, as Technical Writers, to encourage that our users read
> the manuals we create? Is it just a helpless situation? Or is it really
> a "nice test of the software" to "not have to Read The Manual"?
> Software Product Review:
> 04. BUSINESS CARD DESIGNER PLUS. I'll admit it. I'm inherently
> lazy when it comes to users manuals and when I see nearly 50 pages of
> instructions I get squeamish. The test of nice software, I think, is
> how easily it performs when some of us don't read the manual. So,
> Business Card Designer Plus got high marks from me as I
> cranked out a set of spiffy business cards in less than five minutes
> just from the screen prompts. It's hard to imagine what I could do if
> I took the time to RTM. Try it free at
> or buy it for $24.95.
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
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