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I have started working on user guides for the software
I am documenting, and I could use some examples from
other sources. My boss said that he wants the user
guides to be the best in the world, which, knowing him
is not all that rhetorical. He also said he wants the
user docs to explain to the user everything that can
possibly be explained about the software. It should
not only tell users how to employ the system, but also
answer any questions they might have about how and why
Can anyone nominate things they feel are examples of
really outstanding user documentation? I'd like to
look at them with an eye toward borrowing good ideas.
By the way, the software I'm working on is used to
track the movements of charter aircraft, so it has to
be designed so the actions of users are in accordance
with FAA regulations.
I was planning to do several user level documents, as
Operator Procedure Guide (how-to instructions)
UI Reference (detailed callouts of each UI object)
Design and Operation Reference (detailed information
on program workings)
FAQ (contents TBD by user surveys)
The procedure guide would be task-oriented with
detailed instructions. Each procedure would start with
a brief explanation of any prerequisite actions or
information needed to know how to make the proper
selections during the procedure. Each would also be
accompanied by sidebars that give notes about when and
why the procedure would be done, and where possible
the numbered steps would include graphics to show the
sequence of screen objects involved. In addition to
the TOC and index, I planned to include an action
trigger list that tells users when to perform a
particular action, like when an aircraft reports
condition X, they should perform procedure Y.
The UI reference would also provide details about hot
keys; what they are and where they apply.
The reference would include a glossary of special
terms, flow charts depicting high-level views of
system actions during user procedures, basic
information about relevant FAA regulations with links
to government sites for more details, and information
about how customer requirements are addressed by the
The quick reference guide would contain the same
information as the procedure guide, but boiled down to
nothing but the instructions in simple text.
The various documents would of course be indexed and
cross-referenced as much as possible. The procedure
guide would give links to detailed descriptions in the
reference, and the reference would give links to the
screen figures in the UI layout document, and so
I have to come out with hard copy versions of all
these things; that is my first priority. Time
permitting, I hope to also produce electronic
versions. In those, the graphics explaining the screen
object would provide information through mouseovers
instead of text callouts, and the cross-references
would be working hyperlinks rather than simple text
Am I missing anything? Does anyone see a use for some
kind of document that I haven't mentioned?
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