TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals From:Susan Seifert <sseifert -at- FAIRFIELD -dot- COM> Date:Mon, 22 Jan 1996 12:31:21 -0700
At 3:38 PM 1/22/96, Starr, Mike wrote:
>I firmly believe that both the online help and the manual should be as
>thorough and comprehensive as possible and that they both should contain
>essentially the same information. I also believe that both should contain
>both task-based and reference data. IMO, anything less than that is a
>disservice to the user. Some users are more comfortable with online help,
>others are more comfortable with paper documents. We should be providing
>documentation for the end user in a form that he or she is comfortable
>using. It may cost a bit more, but I think those costs are offset by
>goodwill from satisfied customers.
I agree entirely.
However I'd like to add that good documentation can provide much more than
good will. It can be a valuable selling tool in at least two ways:
1. As well as making the information accessible, the TOC can advertise the
program's features and benefits.
2) By making the program easy to learn and use, good docs reduce returns,
reduce technical support costs, promote repeat sales and enhance the
Software publishers spend a fortune loading their programs full of great
features and then effectively hide those features from their customers by
providing scanty or poorly written documentation. Not everyone is motivated
to noodle around the software and bookstores learning undocumented
"secrets." Software publishers will lose many customers due to bad docs.