Getting rid of the manual

Subject: Getting rid of the manual
From: "David Loveless" <daveloveless -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "List,Techwriter" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 09:54:53 -0600


My company is moving away from a printed user manual. We are doing
this gradually to ease our customers into it. Our previous version had
500 pages of user documentation, our current has 150, and the next
will probably have nothing more than a quick start card or guide.

Instead of a manual, we are providing vastly updated and more complete
Help files. I've noticed that many products do this. Sadly, our
previous versions have given very little emphasis to the Help, and
there is a general feeling of incompetence when it comes to the older
files. The newer versions are better, but those feelings still linger.

My Questions:

First--Has anyone out there done this, and what problems did you
encounter? Our biggest concern is the customer reaction. They are very
used to getting a nice printed manual, and they don't really trust the
Help. Even though the Help files will contain all the information from
the manual, we worry that they will "miss the forest for the tree."
How do we sell the user on the idea?

Second--We are also having problems getting buyoff from some members
of management. The rest of management and support is on board. Is
there any evidence or studies out there that compare the value of a
manual to a help file?

Thanks for the help.


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