RE: Making them read the documentation

Subject: RE: Making them read the documentation
From: Fred Brown <fred -dot- brown -at- allegrotechindexing -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 15:22:44 -0400

Michele Marques wrote:

"Can users locate the relevant portion of documentation? Most people don't
want to sit and read a manual. They only turn to the documentation when they
get stuck, and they will only look at your documentation if it is easy to
locate the answer to their question. Maybe you need context-sensitive help,
a good index, or a re-write of the documentation that re-organizes
information to be useful in trouble-shooting."

A good index will go a long way in assisting users find information quickly -- especially in online documents. Also look at how you've structured the hypertext links. Full text searching or natural language searching can assist the user as well. Typically, an index will assist a user to find the most significant discussions on a topic or to get near to the information they are looking for. Hypertext links and online searching can help the user to locate additional information.

I suspect users may often be unaware that an index exists, and if so, if it's any good. You may want to point out -- up front -- what information search tools are available.

And doing some form of user task analysis at the beginning of the documentation or system design process will provide much of the information you need to design effective documention -- including the index and other search tools.

Fred Brown

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Allegro Technical Indexing
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Making them read the documentation: From: S Godfrey
RE: Making them read the documentation: From: Michele Marques

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