RE: How do you read a User Manual?

Subject: RE: How do you read a User Manual?
From: "Paul Strasser" <paul -dot- strasser -at- ennovationinc -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2004 10:33:52 -0600

Interesting thread, because in the last few weeks I've been on the receiving
end of this question, rather than the writing end. My particular area was
guides to mid-level video editing software.

And I'm reading them like a novel. (BTW the butler did it...)

I do understand where John P's manager is coming from. I can imagine he
purchased some software that he wanted to learn - maybe (like moi) for his
home PC. And maybe (again, like moi) the documentation that came with the
software sucked big time. So he went down to the local Barnes & Noble and
browsed, and found a Dummies book or an "Unleashed" book and scanned through
it. Finding a couple that he believes are readable and thorough, he buys
them. Then he takes them to his home or office and reads them. Front to

Then when he tackles the actual software he has at least an idea of where
some function is located, and how to do some task. At this point he has a
general "feel" to how the program works, and can now use these manuals the
way we all think they're used - to do a specific task within the software.
And he's a lot more comfortable at this stage because he has a basic grasp
of the entire software process.

Yes, this is different than someone in a company who is told that they need
the data imported into the new software RIGHT NOW, and here's the User
Manual. In this case, every reasonable person would just go to the index to
the Import section, flip to those pages, and figure things out.

But there is a case for reading manuals front to back. I know, because I've
done it.

Because of this, John should discuss with this manager this concern, but
from the eyes of the typical user of the product. Is it the "I want to
figure the whole software out" user or the "management wants the data
imported RIGHT NOW" user? Maybe John's personnas can help. Get Igor into
the discussion (or is it Ivan?)

And the follow-up question is: Can a single User Manual satisfy both? Why

Paul Strasser
Ennovation, Inc.
2569 Park Lane, Suite 100
Lafayette, Colorado 80026
Phone: 303-468-1164
FAX: 303-926-1510
E-mail: paul -dot- strasser -at- ennovationinc -dot- com


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