RE: encouraging learning by experimentation?

Subject: RE: encouraging learning by experimentation?
From: "Foster, Willow" <WFoster -at- friedmancorp -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Dec 2002 08:39:23 -0600

Mike Bradley wrote:
~> Still, I try every way I can to follow the minimalist
~> approach--not explaining the obvious (like Edit, Add,
~> Delete and Quit), encouraging the user to learn from
~> the application instead of the manual (like scaling
~> my screenshots so that the details are obscured and the
~> user has to read them on the screen), and just not
~> blathering on ("The table below, entitiled Reasons Not
~> to Use Microsoft Word, explains why a technical writer
~> should not use Microsoft Word").

I don't see a reason not to include the "obvious" and many reasons why I
should: it takes hardly any time at all to doc, they take up little space,
it makes my boss happy, it makes my reader happy, etc. I'm not saying go
into painful detail, but something short and sweet to help the user get back
to work. Brief is fine, obscure is not.

~> > Oh no, no, no. This is a very bad idea. As a user, I can't stand it
when I
~> > need to do something simple, don't know how and can't find it in
~> > the doc. I
~> > know it's simple, but, man, I've got a job to do. I don't have all day
~> > play around and figure it out. If I did, I wouldn't of opened the
~> > manual to begin with. Always spell it out. Clearly.
~> Well, keep in mind that we're talking about the user guide, not the
~> reference section. In his later writings, Carroll notes that a good
~> reference section is generally a necessary accompaniment to
~> a minimalist user guide. Things that don't need to be spelled out
~> include concepts that the users already know (a popup menu of types
~> of bank accounts that lists Savings, Checking and Safe-Deposit Box
~> doesn't need to be explained to bank tellers), really simple things
~> like Add means add and how to select an item from a menu (assuming
~> your users aren't likely to be brand new to computers).

Honestly, I don't care what it's called. If the information is vague or
missing altogether, it's bad doc. We are NOT bringing the reader to
enlightenment. We are telling them how to get a job done. If they remember,
if they learn from it, great. If not, well, that's ok too, the reader can
look the same thing up over and over and over to their hearts content. I
don't care.

Willow, not the cosmic-awareness tour guide, but will still share the secret
to editing an product definition.

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