Making Manuals User Friendlier

Subject: Making Manuals User Friendlier
From: PIP Mailbox <prc -at- PIP -dot- DKNET -dot- DK>
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 1996 18:04:46 +1

In response to my mail 4 March on the lists decline, I found this mail
in my personal e-mail today:

> Date: Mon, 04 Mar 1996 16:27:48 -0800
> From: Bill Sullivan <bsullivan -at- smtplink -dot- deltecpower -dot- com>
> To: prc -at- pip -dot- dknet -dot- dk Subject: Making Manuals User
> Friendlier

> This is a response to Peter Ring's ringing in on the subject of this
> list's alleged decline. He wanted a discussion on how we can make
> manuals more user friendly. What's to discuss? We make manuals
> friendlier to users when we:

> 1. Get to the point.
> 2. Tell them what they want and need to know.
> 3. Make it easy for them to find what they want and need to know.
> 4. Say Good-night Now when we have said enough.

> Good-night now.

> Bill Sullivan
> bsullivan -at- deltecpower -dot- com



Good morning Bill.

Please note, that I take your mail so positive, that I publish it. I
hope you don't mind (I have mailed Bill directly,too).

If you read Nora's original mail to the list and her repeated cry
today on new subjects, I also hope you understand why I responded and
continue to respond.

Extremely basically, of cause you are right. But have you never
thought about ...
- WHAT they really wanted to know?
- HOW you make it easy for them to find what they want to know?
- WHEN an index is needed? 2 pages: very unlikely. 200 pages:
certainly!
But how about 8 pages? 20 pages? 40 pages?
- HOW to get to the point, in casu: How to write an instruction?
- WHO are they really - education, culture, reading ability, ...? -
HOW MUCH you should write to which people? - IF they can read at all -
and if yes: how difficult text? - IF you need to make a cartoon here -
or how cartoon-like? Just to mention a few.

After having teached the subject for some years - my main job is
freelance techwriting and consulting on how to write manuals - I have
met so many techwriters having asked themselves these questions -
without being able to find any good answer themselves. That's why they
come to my seminars. Today I know a lot about the answers to these
questions and I am still progressing, so I am sure I don't know the
whole truth. Most likely nobody does, and most likely there is no
absolute global truth. But beyond a certain (low) point of knowledge,
only by communicating with other people about a subject, we can
progress. The idea is: I know something - you know something else -
let's merge our knowledge and go for the synergetic sparc so well
painted by Michelangelo in the Sixtine Chapel in Rome. I want more
progress on this field, and I find the Internet with TECHWR-L a very
potential tool.

So ...

Dear TECHWR-L participants,

what are your rules and ideas about "What is a good manual?"

Peter Ring
PRC - specialist in quality measurements on manuals
prc -at- pip -dot- dknet -dot- dk
http://www.pip.dknet.dk/~pip323/index.htm


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