Re: Getting rid of the manual

Subject: Re: Getting rid of the manual
From: Ami WRIGHT <ami -at- ziplink -dot- net>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2006 08:14:51 -0400

I once wrote documentation for a small software program, which required
about 50 pages of documentation. While I was writing the documentation, I
also gave them feedback about how to make the software easier to use.

It was a contract job, so I wasn't around to find out whether or not they
actually implemented my suggestions. But if they did, they probably needed
less than 5 pages of doc.

I think John's on the right track with this. If at all posible, design the
product to not need doc.


John Garison wrote:
>You're thinking about this the wrong way. Don't think in terms of paper v.
online. Think
>of it from the users' point of view. The real question is "How do I
provide the information
>the user needs when and where it's needed so that getting it isn't a
>The real answer to this is to make the information part of the application.
>Put more effort into usability design. Put more effort into knowing who
your users are
>and how they use your applications. Put information on the screen. Provide
>information as part of the forms they have to fill out. Provide hints.
Show examples.
>Make it all part of the application.
>The down side: It takes us out of what we feel comfortable with. It forces
us to work in
>conjunction with the developers. It's expensive.
>Counter argument: Taking us out of what we're comfortable with is a good
>Working with the developers is a good thing - in fact, once they see what
all we do,
>they'll be less likely to make changes without consulting with us first.
And it really
>isn't that much more expensive. It's just different.
>You may still need some sort of introduction/overview/getting started
guide. OK, write
>one up that's short and gets people up and running and in front of the
application. Do it
>in PDF and let them print it out if needed. Show them the support that's
designed into
>the application. Then get out of their way and let them do their jobs.

Ami Wright
"Technical" tech writer
American with international experience

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