Re: Making them read the documentation

Subject: Re: Making them read the documentation
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 12:07:48 -0700

S Godfrey wrote:

> The question: how do you get those darn users to read your beautiful technical documentation?

My first thought: a carefully coordinate plan of threats, bribes, and

My second thought: could a little design work help? I don't know if that
would help in your case, because I've never seen manuals written by you.
However, many writers ignore typography as something that isn't part of
their jobs; just last week, for instance, someone described an
ineffectual tech-writer as one who twiddled with fonts. Yet I've seen
dozens of manuals that were dully designed, with everything from
mediocre fonts and poorly positioned screen shots to cramped margins and
dense blocks of unreadable text. Many readers (including, sometimes, me,
I confess), tend to avoid such uninviting designs.

A few years ago, I started writing paper manuals with on-line reading in
mind. Originally, my reason was to simplify single sourcing. However, I
soon found that the result was more inviting and more usable than
traditional page layout.

If you haven't tried this approach, you might. It adds a little expense,
since it usually means more pages, but it does seem to make people more
likely to read the manual.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com

"Up your swords, and out your guns,
And to the rogues again!"
- Jacobite Toast


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