Re: Differing Opinions About the Outline for a Hardware Guide

Subject: Re: Differing Opinions About the Outline for a Hardware Guide
From: Barb Philbrick <caslonsvcs -at- IBM -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 14 Feb 1997 08:11:28 GMT

>If you happen to have a hardware manual laying around, would you indulge
>me by sending me the basic outline. I've been writing this product
>guide, and the engineer has a different opinion about the order of the
>chapters, etc. I'd like to forward him a copy of the "industry standard".

My h/w manuals are generally organized as follows:
Initial Setup (if it's programmable at all)
(Lists of Parameters, if applicable)

I make the assumption that users spend more time in the manual during
installation than at any other time. Therefore, I organize the
beginning of the manual according to the order they will need the
information. If they have to wire the unit before they mount it,
wiring comes first. This is also part of my rationale for putting
specifications up front, since most of the need for specifications
comes during installation. (I can also argue for putting
specifications in an appendix, IF you give users what they need during
procedures. For example, remind the users during mounting that the
unit weighs 90 lb. so they know to provide an appropriate mounting
surface before it crashes down on their heads.)

After installation, I assume users will be skimming for specific bits
of information, so I tend to organize the later chapters into
reference sections and try to come up with an organization that will
make sense to the user who page-flips. (One of my clients did a study
that showed that page-flipping was the preferred method for finding
things; indexes, then table of contents followed. I'd be interested in
information about other studies.)

If you need more specifics than this, feel free to ask.


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