Re: Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?

Subject: Re: Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?
From: Mike Starr <mikestarr-techwr-l -at- writestarr -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2008 04:43:39 -0500

IMNSHO, good (and *complete*) software documentation requires (in the following order):

* Introduction that includes some of both *isn't the product wonderful* text and *basic concepts* text as well as a *brief overview* of the user interface. The *isn't the product wonderful* text and *basic concepts* text can help sell the product to folks who are evaluating it (you do want your company to be able to actually *sell* this product, don't you?).

* Common procedures section that provides step-by-step descriptions of how the user accomplishes the most common tasks.

* Reference section that describes each available menu item, toolbar, dialog box, etc. With the miracle of *single sourcing*, the reference section can be the foundation of the help file that provides context-sensitive help for all of these things.

In addition, system requirements and installation instructions are a necessity as well but possibly not in documentation that's only available after the product has been installed.

System requirements definitely belong in the marketing literature and on the company website but I have also included them in the Introduction section of user manuals as well with the assumption that the user manual may be used as part of the marketing material (via the website or through sales folk).

Installation instructions should be available on the company website and as printed material if the product is physically shipped; I sometimes include them as an appendix in the user manual.

The documentation may also require a glossary, especially if you use terms and/or acronyms that new users may not be familiar with. I have at times included a glossary as part of the introduction section and at other times as an appendix.

Best regards,

Mike Starr WriteStarr Information Services
Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - Technical Illustrator
Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - MS Office Expert
(262) 694-1028 - mike -at- writestarr -dot- com -

Pro TechWriter wrote:
> Hey Whirlers:
> I have a very short time frame to produce some documentation for some beta
> software.
> My thoughts that the users will need instructions to use the software, with
> some basic concepts related to the tasks thrown in. Some folks (um,
> "programmers") disagree with that approach. They want high-level conceptual
> information instead and some "isn't the product wonderful" text. They
> basically said "we don't need no stinkin' steps."
> Weigh in, please. I am interesting in hearing some *technical writer's*
> experience and opinions on this one.
> PT

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Initial Doc Focus: Concepts or Procedures?: From: Pro TechWriter

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