RE: Making them read the documentation

Subject: RE: Making them read the documentation
From: Paul Newbold <paul -dot- newbold -at- lightwork -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 14:59:39 +0100

I've also had some really bad experiences recently with docs for domestic
products (vcr and a digital camera) and in both cases the problem was that
the docs were product feature oriented, i.e. they may well have got a list
of 'features' from marketing and worked through them in gruesome detail
until they were all documented (the quick n easy way to document something).

However, users tend to be goal orientated (see Jakob Nielson et. al. ad
nauseum) and if the authors had identified the handful of most likely tasks
e.g. deleting all images on the camera's card, which took me ages to find,
and documented them instead of documenting everything, then it would have
saved me having to trawl through their manuals. The feature listing could
have been rehoused in a de facto reference section.

Paul Newbold
LightWorks Design Ltd
Sheffield, England

>1 - Most people just don't read much nowadays. They rely on TV for
information. That's cultural and largely outside our control. That said, I
as a writing professional consider it my own responsibility to encourage
people to read -- mostly by making what I write more readable.

> 2- People like to see themselves as "rugged individualists". This
manifests itself in all sorts of ways (using a 4X4 truck to drive around in
a city, etc.) one of which is not reading user manuals.

> 3- Virtually all people have a very negative attitude towards doc which is
well-founded on previous experience. It is a sad truth that it is often
easier to try hit & miss than to trawl through a verbose, badly-structured,
and poorly-indexed doc. While we're kinda stuck with that (even the gods
cannot change the past) we should as TW professionals try to give users an
positive doc experience that will undo the previous bad experiences with

> John Cornellier


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