Re: How do readers use online docs?

Subject: Re: How do readers use online docs?
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 14:24:15 -0700

Jane Bergen wrote:
>We are finally ... putting our documents (user guide,
>tech ref. guide, etc.) online...to distribute them on a
>CD-ROM with the software...We're looking at the tools...
> interesting
>puzzle: How do real-world software users really USE online
>documentation?
>
>Do they tend to just print it out? Do they tend to read the documents on
>the screen? How much searching do they do? If they do print out the
>docs, do they print the whole enchilada or only portions?

When I first came to Expersoft, all we produced was paper. "Can
we have online docs?" they asked; and I said "sure" and converted
everything to WinHelp thinking it would suppliment the printed
manuals. No problem.

Then marketing decided that because we had online docs we didn't
need to distribute the paper manuals with evaluation software. Well,
if they'd'a asked me, I'd'a told 'em... Yup. First thing users
wanted to do was print stuff out. Not easy in WinHelp. So the postscript
files we send to the docutech went up on the FTP site.

This round of releases, I finally coerced our marketing folks, who
heretofore had not been able to produce a list of deliverables until
6 months after the product was put to bed, into distributing a user
survey to find out exactly what the users wanted (strange notion, yes,
I know!). ;-) The response was overwhelmingly in favor of plain
vanilla HTML distributed on CD-ROM with the product, to be accessed
from the CD-ROM or loaded onto the user company's intranet.

Note that our audience is made up entirely of programmers. YMMV!


-Sue Gallagher http://pw1.netcom.com/~gscale/susanwg/
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com http://www.expersoft.com

The _Guide_ is definitive.
Reality is frequently inaccurate. --Douglas Adams

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