RE: How do you read a User Manual

Subject: RE: How do you read a User Manual
From: "technicoid" <technicoid -at- cableone -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 15:49:18 -0600

>The impact to this is that he feels information should be organized so
that as you
>get further in the book, you can assume the person already knows
whatever it is
>about the application that got them to that point and never have to
address it
>again, even in passing.
>I'm taking the position that anywhere in the book, they need to know
>about what got them there, either in description or through sufficient
>cross-referencing (which he also dislikes).

Um... with the exception of high-level materials that describe an
approach or methodology, I have NEVER read a user guide from beginning
to end. The character development is weak, and the plot, nonexistent.

>From experience, I can say that you can rarely assume that your reader
has read or remembers everything they've read that they need to perform
a task. And sometimes, even remembering some of the background doesn't
help (if the task is arcane enough).

The best way that we help readers find what they don't know is by
providing complete information with multiple access points (TOCs,
indices, xrefs) and arranged in a way that supports the individual tasks
the reader is performing. Almost everything I've read in the last 10
years of my career supports this point. And you've beem doing this for a
lot longer than I have, if I'm not mistaken. I'm guessing you've read
more of the same.

So I guess I'd have to ask what kind of material are you writing? (And
what do you need from us that you don't already know?)

technicoid -at- cableone -dot- net


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RE: How do you read a User Manual: From: John Posada

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