Binders vs. Books

Subject: Binders vs. Books
From: "Donna B. Doucette" <dbdoucette -at- BANDL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 12:20:17 -0400

Robert Plamondon wrote:

> I believe that sending out complete, updated manuals is more effective
> than sending out changed pages ... it's far better to get it right the first time.

Change pages -- or Updated Pages, as we now call them here -- are NOT
designed to complete draft documents or to fix something we did
incorrectly the first time. Update pages are additional documentation.
We produce data-center software that runs on mainframes. We sell
customized solutions. The enhancements and additional functions are
implemented as soon as they are completed, or our customers would be
unhappy and would go elsewhere. If those new functions require a new
chapter, we write a new chapter and our users are very happy to add it
to their 3-ring binders. If the new function is incorporated within an
existing submenu, then we create new pages for an existing chapter. Most
of our users are happy to substitute these new pages for the old. And if
we add a new field to a screen, then we provide updated pages with the
new steps required for the procedure. Our users are not only happy to
receive this documentation, they insist upon it. How else would they
know how to use the new feature?

In addition to updated print pages,which we typically provide to an
administrator who then distributes them as-desired at his/her site, we
provide PDFs for all the updates. Users may then print out the new pages
and insert them in the existing documentation, or use the online display
instead. We also include a completely new PDF that shows the entire
manual with the new pages already incorporated.

Do we also clean up any typos or errors someone has found when we ship
out the updates? Absolutely. Although we have very few, mistakes are
inevitable given that the two of us produce approximately 2000 pages of
documentation each year. But the purpose of our change pages has always
been to document the NEW features the programmers are providing, not to
fix their mistakes.

Coincidentally, we are also developing a product that is designed for a
wider, Windows-based market, rather than for our current niche market.
For THIS manual, we do indeed expect to create perfect-bound, 7 x 5 (or
so) sized documents. But we also do not plan to update this product as
frequently, nor to offer customized solutions.

A final note,this new product is in alpha and is being tested by some of
our existing mainframe customer base. Guess what? They asked for a DRAFT
version of the manual in a 3-ring binder! We resisted, because the
product isn't even fully written yet -- but they insisted.

D. B. Doucette
dbdoucette -at- bandl -dot- com

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