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Subject:Re: Printed vs. Online: What mix? From:Connie Winch <CEW -at- MACOLA -dot- USA -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 26 Sep 1995 13:37:00 LCL
Mike Starr wrote:
>I'd like to get a feel for how other companies out there blend printed
>and online software documentation. My own personal inclination is to
>develop a complete and thorough manual, then convert that same
>information into a complete and thorough help file. Some people feel that
>there should be a minimalist manual and a complete and thorough help file
>(the Microsoft approach); others feel that there should be a complete and
>thorough manual and a minimalist help file. I think that whatever
>approach is taken it should be the same approach for all of a company's
>products, thus the decision should probably be a prerogative of upper
>management. How do you vote?
>1. Comprehensive printed/comprehensive online
>2. Minimal printed/comprehensive online
>3. Comprehensive printed/minimal online
I did some research on this for a future project, and found that a *mix* of
two is definitely best. This was borne out by a survey of our resellers.
There are significant differences between the two that
need to be considered and that should, in fact, determine the way both are
presented. Granted, you're not proposing only one or the other,
but I thought I'd share some of my sources.
Probably the best source is anything about online doc. by William Horton.
The specific source I used was "No Dumping Allowed: How to Survive the
Transition from Paper to Online Documentation" from the 42nd annual
STC conference. (These are actual presentation notes, not just the
presented in the _Proceedings_).
The other sources are as follows:
Conaster, Kelly. "Documentation Downsizing", _InfoWorld_, April 17, 1995.
Grech, Christine. "Computer Documentation Doesn't Pass Muster",
Humphreys, Donald S. "Getting Started in Hypermedia: Industry Lessons
from Classroom Experience", _Technical Communication_, Volume 41 Number 4,
Fourth Quarter November 1994.
Livingston, Brian. "Make an Online Reference Guide", _PC-Computing_,
Poole, Dorothy L. and Susanne Vieira. "Producing Online Documentation",
STC 40th Annual
Conference _Proceedings_, 1993.
There are many more, but these should give you a good start.
Sadly, very little *quantifiable* research exists on this topic. I quote
Humphryes: "As far as verifiable data, you have just uncovered one of
the major problems with this field -- its aversion to anything theoretical.
I can't think of any conclusive study that points one way or the other
definitively. Horton suggests the same thing."
Bottom Line: (again quoting Humphreys)
"One of the ways we decide whether to go online or paper is customer
feedback. Many customers just say no to online. . . But ultimately you
decide whether or not the user will use it online."
Hope this helps!
|Connie E. Winch | Macola, Inc. |
|Technical Writer | cew -at- macola -dot- usa -dot- com |
|The great man is the one that never loses |
|his child-heart. - Mencius |