on-line vs. paper

Subject: on-line vs. paper
From: Lisa Steinberg <aa075 -at- SEORF -dot- OHIOU -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 22 Dec 1994 17:01:34 -0500

Some thoughts on the on-line vs. paper user-guide discussion:

It has been my experience in software training that for users who are
somewhat technophobic (a mouse scares the hell out of them, and I don't
mean the kind of mouse that squeaks) a paper guide will always rule over an
on-line guide.

Always write for your audience and, in the absence of other
information, always assume that your audience is computer illiterate
(unless you are writing something that is obviously for folks who aren't

Programmers don't necessarily have an audience to write for (that isn't
their job), they just make their programs work. Needless to say,
programmers often resent having to write documentation, much less
user-guides, based on their code.

Personally, I prefer BOTH the on-line and paper guides, mostly because all
on-line help that I've experienced has been limited in any explaination as
to why the user should perform a certain motion. I almost always have to
refer to the paper guide for help for complicated questions because the
on-line guides just can't get me the info I need to perform the task I want
to perform.

I really think it will be years before society is ready for a completely
electronic world. If we (meaning those of us who use and promote the
use of computer technology) push those who are afraid of technology, or who
don't see the purpose in a computer, into going completely electronic
before they are even weaned of paper, we risk alienating the very people
we are trying to help in the use of a particular software program.


* lisa steinberg :) *
* Grantswriter for Rural Action *
* A non-profit sustainable community development *
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* aa075 -at- seorf -dot- ohiou -dot- edu *
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