re: FAQs in User Guides

Subject: re: FAQs in User Guides
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 3 Jan 2001 11:07:07 -0700

re: I'm inclined a bit toward the "no" side, thinking that the FAQs should
be answered in the manual context, and of course be well indexed so they
answers can be easily found. Thoughts?

Absolutely have an FAQ section. In your context (answered in the manual) it
simply represents repetition, which isn't all that bad. By virtue of its
label it's certainly not required reading.

Richard Smith is correct when he offers ...

An FAQ is a support tool that evolves as the Frequently asked questions do.
A useful FAQ is usually not a one time shot, rather a document that requires
maintenance as issues

... but this doesn't provide reason not to include one, which, when the
manual is first printed, is obviously a one-time shot. Again, think of the
FAQ as repetition, another way to say the same thing. If you want to be
really cool indicate a url where questions arising after the manual is
printed are answered. ("Tech support" is part of the process, isn't it?)

While not suggesting this is a problem with anyone on the list, there should
be avoidance of "ego" issues when writing a manual such as "I wrote it so
well the user will get it the first time." Again (to repeat) repetition is
good, and besides, your peers will be impressed with your writing skills
when you extract an FAQ section from the jumble of material you've been

An FAQ could be seen as a free "optional extra" like a terms glossary or,
yes, an index. I suggest providing one may cause your users to feel they're
being treated "extra special." (Just don't let your tech support people say
"it's in the FAQs [dummy]!") I suggest this "treatment" of your customers
is friendlier and better than your suggested "they can look it up in the
index." (But have an index too.)

Here's an idea that might be fun to try when the situation lends itself.
Referencing the Polaroid example in earlier messages in today's digest ...
why not a manual that is nothing but pictures? Then an FAQ section at the

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