Reducing the workload for support folks

Subject: Reducing the workload for support folks
From: Christian Walters <dcwalter -at- DCW -dot- B23B -dot- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1993 13:02:39 CST


First, a quick introduction:

I'm a technical writer for Intergraph Corporation, though I haven't
been for very long (<3 months). All the stuff we do these days is
done in FrameMaker on SUNs, and we're all busily trying to learn to do
online documentation.

Now, the only way to reduce work for support or hotline people (and
you shouldn't bother until they beg :) ) is going to
easy-to-understand online documentation.

Seems like the old paper docs were fine in their day. But now, and
this is probably Reagan's fault, the attention span of the average
student barely spans the length of one TV commercial. There is NO WAY
a novice user (or many experienced users) are going to flip through a
big book, not to mention a whole stack of big books to find out how to
save their file to a different name or change their working directory
or whatever.

Whoever posted the thing about help screens was right on. They should
be many, and varied, and multi-layered. However, they have to be
simple to understand and easy to get to. Otherwise, you've only
changed the questions that people bother the support people with,
without changing their workload.

That's been the goal lately of my department, until we got nailed with
cutbacks and can no longer afford the time it'll take to learn how to
convert our 1000+ page hardcopies to a series of easy-to-read
paragraphs. Maybe next year. Everyone go buy some stock in
Intergraph, okay? :)

Also, users don't want to know why anything works. When someone looks
up a topic they need help on, they want a series of commands that'll
do what they want. They don't want directory paths or histories of
naming conventions or anything like that. If it can be summed up in
one paragraph, most people would read it. If they have to look at a
different page, they won't.

Whoops! I seem to have rambled. Sorry :)

All that, of course (except for the preceding sentence) is just MHO.


| | |
| Christian Walters | |
| Electronics Technical Documentation | "What is it about the |
| Intergraph Corporation | Gates of Hell that makes |
| Phone: (205) 730-8522 | people want to go into |
| FAX: (205) 730-8344 | them all the time?" |
| Internet: dcwalter -at- dcw -dot- b23b -dot- ingr -dot- com | |
| UUCP: !uunet!ingr!b23b!dcw!dcwalter | -Crow, MST3K |
| | |

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