Re: Reading behavior

Subject: Re: Reading behavior
From: Fred Wersan <wersan -at- ZEUS -dot- MA30 -dot- BULL -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 18 Mar 1994 08:22:04 EST

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I suspect this is not an isolated reading behavior.

** Right. I remember having the following real-life conversation:

QA: The user asked us such-and-such and the answer's not
in the manual. Better fix the manual.
Me: It's in the manual. Here's the page.
QA: Hmm... Nope, not there.
Me: Here's the paragraph.
QA: Hmm... Nope, not there.
Me: Here's the sentence.
QA: Oh.
Mark L. Levinson, SEE Technologies, Box 544, Herzlia, Israel
mark -at- dcl-see -dot- co -dot- il | voice +972-9-584684, ext. 230 | fax +972-9-543917

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I think that what people want you to write is something like:

"Do not turn off the console. This means, do not turn off the console."

I get the feeling that people are hesitant to follow even the clearest, most
unambiguous direction without some reassurance that this is, in fact, what
they should do. That's why I like to use screen captures/illustrations. They
(I hope,) reinforce the text and reassure the reader.

I think that the 3rd party folks may (I say may, because I haven't read them
all and they aren't all wonderful so maybe I should say the good 3rd party
folks) be doing a better job at reassuring and supporting readers.

I think there's a connection here to the findings that Dr. Carroll reports in
the Minimalist Documentation book about how people had awful problems following
directions in tutorials.

Fred Wersan
Quest Engineering Solutions
Documentation Services
300 Concord Rd.
Billerica, Mass. 01821
f -dot- wersan -at- bull -dot- com

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