Re: What *is* user friendly...

Subject: Re: What *is* user friendly...
From: Kent Newton <KentN -at- METRIX-INC -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 12:29:00 PST

rjl -at- bostech -dot- com wrote:

-- snip --

>I tend to agree with WandaJane. For me, the term "user friendly" simply
>"easy to use." A document does not have to contain cartoons, smiley
>or pointing characters in order to be easy to use. In fact, as we all
>a manual could be -loaded- with these things yet still incomprehensible
>useless for explaining procedures.

>Sure, it's nice to have Dilbert supply a joke on the page, but when it's
>at night and I'm trying to figure out how to get an obscure feature to
>work, I don't need humor. I need short, accurate, well-written steps
>tell me exactly what I need to know. I don't need a wacky index, I need
>a nice, thick, clearly written index that links back to headings that
>the feature names.

>And I'd like the documentation to explain as much as possible about all
>features. A smiley-book that gives me only the basics is likely useless,

>can figure out how to open, rename, and save files. Instead, tell me
>-everything- that the system will do. Doggone it, I -paid- for those
>and I expect some sort of explanation of how to use them.

For advanced users, the smiley faces and pointing characters are a
distraction and the entry-level content is insufficient to meet the
needs; but for the novice, they might be exactly what are needed. On the
other hand, no matter how clearly organized the index, how simple the
steps, or how detailed the feature descriptions, an advanced manual will
only confuse a novice. So, there is no single definition for "user
friendly": it depends on who the user is. One of the keys to effective
documentation is "Know your audience."

Kent Newton
Senior Technical Writer
Metrix, Inc.
kentn -at- metrix-inc -dot- com

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