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We too deal with the subject of task-oriented documentation and I
understand the frustration. First of all, to do this type of
documentation, you have to connect very closely to your user's
environment...closer than I think we as writers are prepared to be.
During the documentation review process, we have representatives from
every facet of the product structure. During this process, I am required
to take on the perspective of the user.
- Does the information flow according to common user processes?
- Are there objects or patterns which obstruct the flow?
- Does the flow look/feel similar to other environmental documentation?
- Should the information containing other than default information?
- Do the product defaults represent the majority of the users?
- After verifying process flow, is the is the information adequately
referenced for quick look-up.
- Does the documentation represent a transparent, intuitive approach or
does it communicate an arrogant, know-it-all approach to book building
(as evident in so many document projects)?
Understanding these questions make us more responsible than just
information gatherers. And I think the user warrants our attention to
Might I suggest you take a trip to see the product used in several 'live'
environments. Talk to the technicians/operators who use the product. Hang
around...be the bug on the wall. Above all, LISTEN, no matter how painful
it might be. Remember you have inflicted your ideas of how you think
documentation should be. Listen to the feedback. You might be surpised
what you hear and find.