Don't do it!!!

Subject: Don't do it!!!
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002 08:50:47 -0400

David Downing reports: <<I was just given two sets of instructions for our
new phone system -- one being the official manual from the company, and the
other being a simplified cheat sheet written by the trainer. The procedure
for programming number into the phone's memory is essentially the same un
both places, except that the cheat sheet has "Do NOT lift the handset" as
the first step. The author of the official manual apparently thought that
was implicit the omission of "Lift the handset," but the trainer told us
that everybody just automatically lift the handset -- and the procedure
doesn't work.>>

It's an interesting point. I'd bet that the people who wrote this actually
spent time watching how people work with the product, discovered that large
numbers of users made the same mistake, then figured out how to minimize the
problem it through documentation. Wouldn't it be nice if all documentation
projects included some kind of analysis of how readers could muck up a task,
then wrote in such a way as to guide them around the problems?

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"User's advocate" online monthly at
"The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can
think."--Edwin Schlossberg, designer (1945- )

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