RE: instructions

Subject: RE: instructions
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- kinzan -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 3 Jan 2001 12:09:35 -0800

>Roger L. Boyell said:

> ...Instructions
> should be clear to anyone using them, whether or not the user
> is part of the intended audience.

> and Tracy Boyington countered with:
> That's kind of a broad statement, isn't it? Do you mean one
> should write instructions for anything -- electron
> microscope, laser scalpel, etc. -- at a level that anyone who
> happens to be interested could understand, whether or not
> they are actually intended or even able to use the thing? If
> so, I disagree.

now me:

It's a dillema that we, as a profession, have been grappling
with for ages -- How much domain knowledge must we provide
to our audience? And the standard answer is, it depends.
<yeah, go figure, huh!> ;-)

What we need to do is consider the product and the liklihood
that someone untrained in the domain will attempt to use it.
For mac & cheese, the liklihood that someone untrained in
cooking will attempt to use the product is pretty near certain.
In the case of the laser scalpel, probably not. But, then again,
what's to stop someone from being curious about what you can
see through an electron microscope even if they're not a trained
lab tech?

If we err on the side of providing too little domain knowledge,
we render the product useless to all but those experienced in
the domain. If we provide too much domain knowledge, we run
the risk of exposing our ignorance to or inhibiting the
performance of the expert. Take accounting software, for
example. There's some accounting software that targets CPAs
and there's some that targets me when I'm doing my taxes.
My documentation needs are *way* different than the needs of
the CPA -- trust me on this one! ;-)

In the case of mac & cheese, Kraft advertises to kids, making
kids an integral part of their target audience. It would seem
to me that they should make sure the instructions can be followed
by members of their target audience.

And, no, I don't think 10 year olds are too young to try
cooking. But more importantly, 10 year olds don't think
they're too young to try cooking and you can't watch them
every minute of every day.

Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- kinzan -dot- com

"The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate."
-- Douglas Adams
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

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

Sponsored by DigiPub Solutions Corp, producers of PDF 2001
Conference East, June 4-5, Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. or toll-free 877/278-2131.

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Previous by Author: Holiday gifts & idiot lights
Next by Author: std abbreviations?
Previous by Thread: Re: instructions
Next by Thread: Re: instructions

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads