What *is* user-friendly... -Reply

Subject: What *is* user-friendly... -Reply
From: Bill Sullivan <bsullivan -at- SMTPLINK -dot- DELTECPOWER -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 14:52:43 -0800

Dear WandaJane: Basically, I'm on your side. I might find in favor
of your buddy if you insist on more than one manual, but the rest of
what you say is sound. Dye your hair blue and stick earrings in your
nose if you have to, but when it comes time for business it's best to
get down to business.

>>> WandaJane Phillips <wandajp -at- andyne -dot- on -dot- ca> - 1/19/96 4:07 PM >>>
I had a discussion recently with a friend, who is also technically a
writer, and we disagreed on what made a guide *user friendly*. We
narrowed the conversation to software products for office use, not
games or home entertainment types of software, not hardware or not
computer related products.
I held the opinion that the friendliest guides informed in as clear
and concise a manner as possible. That they worked on the premise
that what the user wanted to accomplish was more important that
long-winded explanations of every feature and the three to five steps
required to use it. I continued with easy access to information,
meaning well structured documents with a good index and a glossary,
and I finished up with breaking books up so that a novice user had
one book, intermediate another book (perhaps even another kind of
book), and the experienced user got an in-depth reference.
My buddy complained that I was too staid, too stuck in a rut that
didn't allow people to feel really comfortable with the products I
document. A friendly, more colloquial presentation would get people
more relaxed and that would enable them to explore more confidently.
Buddy says books like the series with big disks that look like people
and point to things are the perfect novice user book. Apparently,
there is no need for books beyond that except for lots of detailed
context-sensitive help.
My complaint, which buddy has heard way too much of, is that
1) I don't want my guides to be chummy, I want my (for example) Word
guide to tell me, in no uncertain terms, how to create headers and
footers for odd and even pages.
2) Marketing style belongs in marketing documents. Although the
person using the product may not be the one who bought it, and
therefore may need to be *sold* on the product, my feeling is the
best way to get the user's *buy-in* is to make the product as easy to
understand as possible, and I can do that with neutral language quite
Buddy wants me to use looser language and grammar, I want tidy little
docs. I save my creative writing for my letters home and other


WandaJane Phillips
Senior Technical Writer -- Pablo
Andyne Computing
Usual disclaimers in effect

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