RE: huh?

Subject: RE: huh?
From: "Janice Gelb" <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 9 May 2003 10:24:00 -0600

> "Mark Baker" <> wrote in message news:197380 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
> >
> > The myth of the ignorant editor and the myth of the ignorant writer are both
> > derived from the myth of the ignorant user. I'm not convinced it had merit
> > even in the days when a high percentage of users were ignorant. But the
> > period in which the ignorant user was the norm has certainly passed.
> I agree. There is absolutely no reason specialized software documentation
> should have basic Windows user-interface instructions. If user?s don?t know how
> to right-click, then send them a copy of that video professor. No technical
> writer at a software firm should be documenting at that low of a level.

I agree that universally accepted Windows interface behavior
does not need to be documented. If you are in a safe little
Windows user-interface universe, you probably don't need to
spend a lot of time or page count documenting the interface.
Out here beyond the Windows ghetto, though, I am seeing more
and more web-based user interfaces.

Unfortunately, these interfaces tend to be exceedingly
idiosyncratic, as standard rules cannot be enforced. (One
would hope that good user interface practices would be,
but trust me, that's usually a vain and idle hope :-> )
There are interfaces where the fields and menus change names
depending on a previous choice, where buttons change function
sometimes without changing names, installation screens are
written by engineers who assume the users know their cryptic
names for functions, and a host of other potentially confusing
behaviors. Online help for the web is also a mix of pop-up
windows, mouse-over lines, and so on.

I think the future is still safe for writers who have
to document software interfaces.

-- Janic


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