Reply to "Why do help?" -Reply

Subject: Reply to "Why do help?" -Reply
From: Steve Christensen <STEVECH -at- WORDPERFECT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 1994 10:24:28 -0600

I've been working on WordPerfect's/Novell's Office/Symmetry/GroupWise
(yes, it's all the same product), which has the same site-license problem
that Trevor described. Before going into the problems I see, I'll answer
the original question.

So far, we have been able to devote equal numbers of writers to printed
and online documentation, each pair focusing on a specific platform
(DOS, Win, Mac, and Unix variants). The writing for the printed began
while the online writers organized and planned their topics, and while the
printed documentation was being . . . um . . . printed, the online writers
were finishing writing their help files. We did collaborate to some
degree, but we didn't simply throw all of the printed documentation
online. Some questions are still answered better in the online
documentation, and others are handled better in the manual.

Our problem:
When we ship the product, it includes one copy of the printed
Reference, one copy of a scaled-down User's Guide, and an order form
for more documentation. Naturally, a few organizations will spend the
money to order more documentation for their users, but just a few. So
the sites have a two-hour training session and expect everyone to learn
the product through online help. Here's the frustrating part--they don't
use the online help. From the research we have done, users will spend
more time searching for a "guru" or looking for the one manual than
searching in the online documentation.

Has anyone else seen this problem? If so, what are your solutions?

Steve Christensen
Senior Technical Writer
WordPerfect, Novell Applications Group
SteveCh -at- WordPerfect -dot- com

Related to the Subject
If you want to read some recent commentaries about the issue of online
and printed documentation:

Ed Foster, "From the Editor," INFOWORLD, Aug 8 (p44), 15 (p46), 22
(p46), 1994
Jim Seymour, "Scanty manuals, or none, are a lousy idea," PC WEEK,
Sept 12 (p?), 1994

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