RE: Has anyone ever written the user guide before the product was developed (coded)?

Subject: RE: Has anyone ever written the user guide before the product was developed (coded)?
From: "Chantel Brathwaite" <brathwaitec -at- castupgrade -dot- com>
To: "'Vanessa ScottSabic'" <vanessascottsabic -at- nanometrics -dot- ca>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2010 16:44:45 -0500

Vanessa,

It almost sounds like you'd be writing a functional spec. The functional
spec often looks a lot like a user's guide, in that it can contain screen
mockups, steps for performing different functions (which usually comes from
use case diagrams and maybe sequence diagrams), a full definition of all
fields in a window as well as the parameters that indicate what range of
options are acceptable for each field (often comes from other requirement
documents). Conditions are also in there as well.

Functional specs can often be made end user documentation with very little
tweaking (provided the developer follows the spec).

This is doable, but works best if you can work closely with the developers.
That means being part of development meetings and so forth. I personally
can't see how this would be divorced from the design process frankly, since
as you write and work through screen mockups, you'll see ways to refine the
design or find out that other screens etc. are needed to accommodate a
certain workflow). In a sense, by writing the instructions, you are testing
the idea - and that brings changes. I agree with the others that having
good software or system requirement specs are key when writing documents in
this way.

The type of writing that you describe is actually the type that I like best
because a lot of creativity and collaboration is involved. I've definitely
written documentation for sections of software that have not been coded,
including documentation for programmers who said that they were doing to do
a certain thing - then ended up not doing it - or getting overruled. If you
take this route, be sure to allow time at the end to accommodate the changes
to the software that will inevitably occur.


Chantel Brathwaite
Tech Writer
Cole Engineering


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Has anyone ever written the user guide before the product was developed (coded)?: From: Vanessa ScottSabic

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