RE: Why marketing should make the user manuals

Subject: RE: Why marketing should make the user manuals
From: "Joe Malin" <jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com>
To: "Al Geist" <al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006 11:25:23 -0700

My perspective:

I agree, but this is more a matter of understanding who your customers
are and what they will notice. Based on the anecdotes and ideas I've
read in this thread, I have changed my mind regarding what I said
initially. Documentation with good production values do convey
professionalism and reliability. Everything about a company either sells
its product or stands in the way of selling it.

We do have to be careful about a blanket definition of "good production
values" for all types of situations. As a software developer, I would be
turned *off* by a slick "marketing"-style user manual for an integrated
development environment. My immediate reaction would be that the company
is too concerned with selling me things and not concerned enough with
helping me use what they sold.

As a software developer, I would prefer a user manual that was thorough,
accurate, up-to-date, and exhaustively indexed. Even better would be an
online manual in which I could set my own web bookmarks. In my current
job, where I write documentation for developers and system
administrators, I try to spend less time than I should making the docs
pretty and more time than I want making the data easy to find.

This does *not* mean that one should write all manuals like this! In
fact, one of my favorite "technical manuals" is Anybody's Bike Book by
Tom Cuthbertson. The production values are funky, but from that I get
the feeling that bike repair is *not* rocket science. A slick manual
might intimidate me *more*. Of course, he's not selling bicycles or

One thing I like about Cuthbertson's book is that he uses drawings
instead of photographs. Maybe it's just me, but most photographs in
technical manuals confuse me. Unless they're done exactly right,
photographs just don't convey the important details the way drawings do.
Photos also seem to include extraneous stuff.

I vote to continue this thread a bit more; I'm getting some great ideas
from it.

Joe Malin
Technical Writer
jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com
The views expressed in this document are those of the sender, and do not
necessarily reflect those of TuVox, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+jmalin=tuvox -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+jmalin=tuvox -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf
Of Al Geist
Sent: Friday, September 01, 2006 5:17 AM
Subject: Re: Why marketing should make the user manuals

I read an article once (in INC magazine) about a guy who bought an
envelope manufacturing company. His company was barely making a
until he realized that every employee and every product was part of
company's marketing/sales mix, and he set out to inform all his
employees how they fit in the overall scheme of things.

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