QUERY: Long vs. Short Manuals

Subject: QUERY: Long vs. Short Manuals
From: "Melinda M. Carr" <melindac -at- CAPSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 10:44:00 -0700

I work for a software company and am currently documenting the
inexpensive ($99) product. It is sold primarily to lawyers and
paralegals. The marketing angle is that the product is both powerful and
easy to use.

Our current manual (290 pages, not including the 70-page tutorial)
attempts to document every task. All of this information is also included
in the help system. The problem is that the manual no longer feels like
it is easily accessible. We worry that people are getting bogged down in
the details that they only need maybe 10% of the time and so aren't able
to find the information they need every day.

We have considered paring the manual down to the basics, with optional
procedures mentioned (perhaps with *brief* instructions). The help system
would still contain all the information, and we would list specific words
to search on in the helps to make it easier for users to find what they
wanted online. We also want to emphasize graphics more throughout the
manual. (For those of you who have seen the Word 95 manual, we are
thinking along those lines.)

If we go with this idea, it will be a big change for us, and we are a
little nervous. We have posted a question on the mailing list for this
product and hope to get some good feedback from our users.

I also want to know what you think of this issue. Have you tried this?
Does it work? Are there better ways to make the documentation accessible
and easy to use? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. You can send
responses directly to me, or to the list. I will post a summary if there
is interest.


Melinda (melindac -at- capsoft -dot- com)

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