Re: Making them read the documentation

Subject: Re: Making them read the documentation
From: Joy Brady-Beer <joy_m_brady -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 09:45:32 -0700 (PDT)

--- S Godfrey <kittenbreath -at- lycos -dot- com> wrote:
> The question: how do you get those darn users to
> read your beautiful technical documentation?
> In my company, not only our users, but our
> installation people fail to refer to the manual. I
> set it up to be either read, or quickly referred to.
> But still, our installation people repeatedly ask
> engineering the most basic questions - ones that are
> answered easily in the manual. For whatever reason,
> no one wants to read it.

A few thoughts spring to mind: for the installation
people, if they have a lot to carry (?) they may be
leaving the binder behind. Perhaps a physically
smaller version. I did this for field techs who had
to carry a lot of equipment. Quick ref cards.

Is it possible to get Engineering folks to collude
with you and refer the installation people to the

Is it possible to ask the Installation people what
form of documentation would be easier than a phone

Can you find out from Engineering what the most
commonly asked questions are? You could create a
quick reference card from those. You might also find
out whether the information in the manual for those
topics is not as obvious as you might think. See
about testing the document on a friend or colleague
unfamiliar with your manual: with a frequently asked
question, see how your friend finds it in the manual.
"Try to find information about _____ in this manual."

If the document doesn't have an index, that would be
helpful! I rely on indexes nearly every time I use
any manual. I flip right to the back. If it's not
there, I start trying to figure out the thing on my

I've been AMAZED at things my users have missed that I
thought were plain as day. (example: When telling my
mother to click the gray button on a web page, she
asks, "What button?" It was the only non-text object
on the page. Gray, standard buttony thing. She didn't
see it because she hadn't learned the metaphor yet. To
her, it was a gray box, a title or something.)

Joy Beer

Joy Beer
Technical Writer
Columbus, Ohio, USA

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Making them read the documentation: From: S Godfrey

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