Re[2]: paper vs online

Subject: Re[2]: paper vs online
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- OKWAY -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU>
Date: Mon, 15 Mar 1993 16:35:31 CST

Lynn said:
<good stuff deleted>
>online and balloon help. In this case, I simply turned balloon help on, and
>voila, the mystery was solved. But the point is, many people, especially
>novices do not think about using online documentation. For them, it's as
>unnatural and intimidating as the application they are trying to learn. Paper
>is familiar and people want to turn to something safe and familiar when they
>are on foreign turf. But as you can see from my little story, even the Mac

>I think the bottom line is that different types of people respond differently
>to different types of documentation.For a programmer, an online Unix man page
>more than sufficient, but I do not write documentation for programmers...I
>write for students, faculty, clerical staff, etc., and I generally start
>from the premise (or allow for the fact) that they have a minimal technical

I think that one of the fundamental differences here is the difference
between online help and online documentation. I have found that brief and
directed help screens work wonders for getting inexperienced users through
new or unfamiliar stuff. I wouldn't get rid of them for the world.

I consider online documentation to be thorough, comprehensive, and
descriptive rather than prescriptive ("you can do this and that" rather than
"do this now, then do that.") Just as someone else said, that kind of
information usually gets printed out anyway, because you cannot remember
the infomation long enough to use it.

For me to be completely happy with online documentation it would have to
either be visible concurrently with my application (on a normal system and
monitor) or be structured in such a way that the information would reside
comfortably in my short-term memory long enough to be useful.

My question is, how do we structure information so it does fit and stay
in memory for the amount of time it takes to return to the application
and apply it?

ejray -at- okway -dot- okstate -dot- edu

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