RE: non-tech techwr better for end users (was "same boat")

Subject: RE: non-tech techwr better for end users (was "same boat")
From: jgarison -at- ide -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 2 Jan 2001 11:45:15 -0500

We writers need to do several things -

1. Appreciate what we DON'T know when we begin working on a new product so
that we have a feeling for what the real users will want to know when they
begin using it. As I tell my writers - you're only naive about a product for
a few days - remember the questions you have at the beginning as they will
be the same questions your readers have. Then make sure you answer those

2. Approach a project like an iceberg - 8/9 of it is under water. We need to
understand the entire iceberg, even if only 1/9 of what we know gets
explained to the readers. But what we do write is well-grounded in what we
know. Conveying this sense of certainty makes the reader feel comfortable
with the writer's knowledge.

3. Know what to include and what to exclude - or at least what to hide. I
often advocate for layers of information - the 20% of the information that
is all that 80% of the readers need to know at the top, with more detailed
layers available for those people who are sufficiently motivated to search
them out (or click on a More Info button). Putting everything at the top
layer confuses or overloads people; making it available with a couple of
extra clicks serves the needs of the people who need to know more.

Whatever the problem, these are skills and approaches - dare I say
methodologies - for understanding and then explaining systems. Maybe even
Andrew can agree that this level of process is acceptable and worthwhile!

My 2 ¢,


Marguerite Krupp writes:

True, we may not know everything about a subject
when we start (the engineers are often still inventing it), but we do need
to know more than the users so that we can anticipate what the users need
and what they're likely to have problems with.

Develop HTML-based Help with Macromedia Dreamweaver! (STC Discount.)
**NEW DATE/LOCATION!** January 16-17, 2001, New York, NY. or 800-646-9989.

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