RE: How do you read a User Manual

Subject: RE: How do you read a User Manual
From: Fred Sampson <wfreds -at- cruzio -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 16:25:11 -0700

My current employer (a Large Enterprise Software Company) has actually done usability studies with users of our documentation (which is delivered both in print and as online help). And, wonder of wonders, some folks are actually paying attention to the usability studies.

The answer: users go to the index to find what they need (or think they need); online, they use the index and search about equally. They don't read from beginning to end.


At 02:30 PM 6/15/2004, you wrote:

Hi, guys...I'm having a discussion with someone at my company, and
unfortunately, he's several layers above me in the company pecking
order, so I have to be careful how I approach this with him.

In a nutshell, he's telling me that users will approach a User's Manual
and read it like a novel...they start from the from and read it page
after page.

My position is that readers enter the book at any place that contains
the content to address their issue at hand.

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
something about what got them there, either in description or through
sufficient cross-referencing (which he also dislikes).


John Posada
Senior Technical Writer
Isogon Corporation
"Realizing Your Business Goals
Through Software Asset Management"

Fred Sampson
Information Developer
fred -at- fredsampson -dot- com


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

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