Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 30 Jun 1996 to 1 Jul 1996

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 30 Jun 1996 to 1 Jul 1996
From: ArtElser -at- AOL -dot- COM
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 1996 15:56:56 -0400

Tracey Boyington said:

>I *do* know extremely intelligent people who are the proud >owners of some
of the worst instructions ever written. And >no amount of cutesy humor or
silly clip art can make these >understandable. I wish people could
concentrate on what's >supposed to be important (clear, concise, all that
stuff) >instead of putting all of the blame on the users.

I think the answer here is really TWers who can do early prototyping on VCR
interfaces that don't need much documentation, ones that ask the right
questions on screen so the manual never makes it off the shelf next to the
VCR tapes.

Our major contribution to users is to put the intelligence of any system as
far "upstream" as possible. By upstream I mean as close to the user as
possible, either by programming the interface to do the correct thing without
being told or by having the interface prompt the user for the right
information. Downstream in this case is having the information in the manual.
Then, the user has to translate what we've written into something that
matches the product interface in terms he or she understands.

John Bowie of Hewlett Packard in Fort Collins calls this information
engineering. If you ever get to read something John has written or can go to
one of his presentations at an STC conference, do it.

In the downstream case, which often comes about because we have no clout to
cause changes in the interface, we can most help with clearly written
manuals. But that is really the worst case. Alas, to often the common case.

Art Elser
Comtech Services, Inc.
artelser -at- aol -dot- com

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