Re: Online/print

Subject: Re: Online/print
From: Romay Jean Sitze <rositze -at- NMSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 1994 11:18:58 -0600

This problem isn't new. Nor is it limited to computer users. The old
saying "When all else fails, read the manual," predates me by a quite a
bit. What is surprising is how frequently this type of thing comes up
with those of use who write the things!

On Thu, 22 Sep 1994
Elna -dot- Tymes -at- SYNTEX -dot- COM wrote:

> In article <199409221516 -dot- IAA05287 -at- infinity -dot- c2 -dot- org>, <srm -at- c2 -dot- org> (Richard
> Mateosian) writes:

> > I cite these examples to make the point that books are not *inherently*
> > better at orienting the user. It's a design issue. ...RM

> We just went through a humbling exercise with one of the user groups at
> Syntex. For one project, we've managed to create (against incredible odds)
> a user guide, a set of training exercises and a training database, a Help
> system for the PC, one for the Mac, and a series of presentations that explain
> the system to a variety of audiences who all want different information. The
> members of this group were not allowed to get the software installed on their
> desktop until they went through the training class.

> I was finally allowed to ask this user group (six people in all) how they
> preferred to use the materials they had. None had even opened the User Guide;
> therefore none had discovered the QuickRef card stuck inside the front cover,
> even though it was demonstrated in their training class. Only one of the six
> referred to his marked up copy of the Training Exercises after the class. Most
> did not even know of the existence of the online Help system, despite their
> having done an exercise in the Training that was specifically about the Help
> system.

> I don't feel particularly threatened by this. In fact, I predicted that
> something like this would happen. For one, the FDA requires that any software
> used in the process of clinical research has to have acceptable user docs; for
> another, the documentation had to be in big binders, with copy done on a
> Docutech in order to keep costs down. But what surprises me is that, even
> with that much support, the users didn't use what they had. (They also have
> a hot line to the project manager any time they need help.)

> So this has raised a number of questions in my mind, most having to do with
> how people use the tools available to them. They can gripe and moan about
> useless manuals, and techies in the field can point to the latest in online
> technology as a means of getting information, but I wonder if these aren't all
> somewhat irrelevant. What do you do if your (extremely intelligent but
> incredibly busy) user community won't use the tools available, and the program
> itself isn't particularly intuitive? What to you do about the basic problem
> of overload? Documentation - whether paper or online - can only do so much.

> Elna Tymes
> Los Trancos Systems

* RoMay Sitze rositze -at- nmsu -dot- edu *
* Mirrors should reflect a *
* little before throwing *
* back images. *
* -Jean Cocteau- *

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