Re (2): One doc for both training and reference

Subject: Re (2): One doc for both training and reference
From: "John P. Brinegar" <johnbri -at- PRIMENET -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 14 Jan 1996 08:17:33 -0700

Julie Tollefson said,

>> >Our technical writing department has been asked to investigate the
>> >possibility of producing one document that meets training and reference

And Eric J. Ray responded,

>I'd love to get some input on this one. We're doing just that
>(out of time constraints rather than anything else, at least
>at this point), but I'm not convinced it will work.

While it may be possible to get by with a single document, it seems to me
that this doc might suffer from poor usability. I have seen some online
stuff that was designed to serve both reference and training purposes and
did combine the purposes very well. In this online stuff, the instructional
and practice stuff was clearly separate from the reference stuff, and it
was easy to jump back and forth without getting confused. (Hey! That's an
electronic performance support system, isn;'t it?)

In paper, I belive most users would find a mix of documents, some
supporting instruction and practice and some providing ref info, more
useful. The development cost and time cycle could still be reduced by
simultaneous development of training and reference stuff.

>We've got a new product (internal for now, external in about
>6 months) and created a "User's Guide" that's structured
>as a tutorial and functions as a training guide/supplement.
>You have to work through it sequentially to get the full
>impact, but it can, in a pinch, act as a user's guide. It's
>got a glossary and full index, so it will work to an extent
>as a reference.
>I'm just joining this project, and I'm trying to figure out
>how to keep the document together, add material, and not
>reduce the usability on any count.

If this is to be devlivered on paper, I believe you may not succeed very well.

John P. Brinegar,
Consulting and development
-Performance support systems
-Technical communications

Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.
(602) 278-7398
johnbri -at- primenet -dot- com

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