Re: Can I Have Your Opinions and Ideas on Audience?

Subject: Re: Can I Have Your Opinions and Ideas on Audience?
From: Rose Wilcox <RWILC -at- FAST -dot- DOT -dot- STATE -dot- AZ -dot- US>
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 1994 12:43:00 PST

Sorry to reply to you on list, David, but 1) my system doesn't
include your email address in the header so I can't reply to
you directly and 2) I thought others might be interested
in your comments.

David (The Man) Blyth wrote (replying to Rose Wilcox):

>.>Do you find management and technical people tend to overestimate the
>>skill levels of the audience?

>No. You must be fairly skilled to use our product. What our
>management and technical people overestimate is the learning curve
>necessary to use our product well.

In our product (Windows-based), we have a range of users from
folks who have used many Windows products to those who have
not used a computer before at all. The audience was basically defined to me
as having a competence in Windows, but I am finding through user
input that not all of our users have this level of skill.

>>I was taught that in technical writing you must address the needs of
>>the "lowest common denominator".

>I disagree (and was tempted to say something stronger). If your
>audience cannot follow a clear and well-organized document, then they
>probably should not be using your product - because they even don't
>understand the basic concepts.

That is not what I meant by "lowest common denominator". Maybe I
should've defined the term. I meant in terms of computer-related skills,
that is, folks who are new to the organization, computers, or the process,
as well as folks who have been around for awhile. Not folks who
can't read!

>'s up to you (and I) to write a `clear and well-organized

To me, that's a given. Or else I could just let the programmers write it!

>>I have found that often this direction is resisted. I don't mean that
>>manuals or on-line help need always be written down, but that materials
>>introducing new people to the system are usually necessary, no matter
>>how technical folks and management resist the idea. Do you have
>>similar experiences?

>Yes and no. Our management and technical folk are not so much resistent
>to this idea so much as they do not understand the amount of work that
>goes into it. "Oh, yes", they say "a tutorial and on-line help is
>definitely a good idea. Why not take a day or two and write one?"

>BTW, I personnally believe that a tutorial is _always_ necessary.

>Another BTW - please do not (do not) `write down' your manuals and
>on-line help. 5 pages of clearly written material is worth 10 pages
>of dumbed down text. A tutorial isn't `written down' - it only covers
>the highlights to get someone started.

Yes, that's all I was referring to is the addition of tutorial and getting
started information. Not to "dumbing down" the text, but to providing
somewhere basic "how do I get around in here" type information.

Rose Wilcox
Roving Tech. Writer
rwilc -at- fast -dot- dot -dot- state -dot- az -dot- us
ncrowe -at- primenet -dot- com

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