User documentation as product specs

Subject: User documentation as product specs
From: "Peter Ring, PRC" <prc -at- PIP -dot- DKNET -dot- DK>
Date: Fri, 19 Apr 1996 13:34:16 +1

On 18 april '96 Frank Watson wrote:

>The medical software company I work for is planning to make a change
>in the way it handles product specifications. The intent will be to
>develop a draft of the user documentation first, which will become the
>specifications around which the software engineers will develop
>functionality and user interfaces.

>Have any of you had experience with this approach? What have been the
>dvantages and disadvantages? Problems? Success stories? Any
>suggestions about how to best implement this approach?

>Feel free to E-mail me directly, unless you feel an ongoing
>discussion would be of interest to the entire list. If I receive
>enough responses, I will summarize them to the list.

This is a very good way to do it, I have seen it used a number of
times, allways successful. In your business you probably know
Radiometer's ABL equipment. Their first ABL was developed this way.

When writing your draft user documentation, do not think of what you
thisk is technologically possible or not - but avoid trying to break
the laws of physics. Write down a "user's dream" about usability and

What are the disadvantages? I only know two:
1. It takes some time and ressources to make a good "user's dream".
2. It has to be done by market/user oriented people with power plus
technology and market knowledge to strike back when R&D says

But you get great user friendly products out of it, and the user
manuals are a lot easier to write afterwards.

Greetings from Denmark

Peter Ring
PRC - specialist in user friendly manuals and quality measurements on manuals
prc -at- pip -dot- dknet -dot- dk
- homepage on user friendly instruction manuals with tips for writers

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