Re: Who is my audience?

Subject: Re: Who is my audience?
From: "Mitman, Rikki" <Rikki -dot- Mitman -at- COMPAQ -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 1997 08:54:13 -0600

I faced a similar challenge in a previous job. The approach we took may
not be the best possible, but it worked out well enough for our
audiences, so I'll offer it for your consideration.

The application we were documenting had different sets of users, with
different levels of computer experience, privileges, and
responsibilities. The documentation was task-driven.

We began by outlining the functionality of the application in general
task sets. Each task set was broken down into the parts various users
would perform. A section would begin with the lowest level tasks and
move to the higher levels. Where appropriate, cross-references to more
detailed instructions were included.

In some instances, this meant we repeated a lot of material, but that
was largely cut and paste, so the only time involved was what it took to
organize. The one manual was more cumbersome than separate manuals would
have been, but that was a constraint we had to work with. To help make
it more usable, we took great pains with the table of contents and
index, so users could find what they needed quickly and easily.

If you can only produce one format, and you also have to do training, it
seems to me the print manual is the way to go. Your less experienced
users may not know how to use online help, and may be frustrated by
that. Also, if you use the manual in training, the users will be more
comfortable with it.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Rikki Mitman, Tech Writer
ECG Technology Communications
(281) 518-9855
Office 10441, Mail Stop 100403

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Eric J. Ray [SMTP:ejray -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM]
>Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 1997 8:25 AM
>Subject: FWD: Who is my audience?
>Forwarded anonymously on request. Eric
>>I work for a large university (40000+ full time students). Over the past
>>few years, we have implemented a new computer system. It involves 9
>>separate 'modules' which are used in various ways by approximately 4000
>>staff. It was designed in-house, and there were no vendors involved.
>>I have been in charge of writing the documentation, and training the
>>Up until now, I have madly documented every single feature of our Student
>>Information System. The manuals are huge, and most staff have never read
>>them. I'm now at a point where system changes have stabilized, and I can
>>think about redesigning our documentation.
>>I have three questions:
>>1. At the moment, there are 9 manuals, and many, many e-mail updates to
>>them. There is no on-line help, or web-based help. I have the choice of
>>either re-doing the paper documentation, creating application help
>>(accessible from the Help drop menu inside a module), or creating web
>>help (in a secure web site). Which type of documentation would you
>>consider to be a priority?
>>2. My 4000 users are a very diverse group of people. They include
>>programmers, tech staff, registrarial staff, faculty, secretaries, and
>>upper level management. I know that there are computer whizzes out there,
>>but there are also staff who still use rolodexes to track their students.
>>A fair number of staff are not comfortable with computers.
>>The main lesson that I have learned from this listserv is "know thy
>>reader". I know them, but I don't know who to write for. Would you write
>>for the rolodex users? The programmers? The secretaries (who only look at
>>information)? The registrarial staff (who change all types of
>>I'm only allowed to create one set of documentation. The last set was
>>written for the registrarial staff. Needless to say, the larger body of
>>secretaries complained about all of the useless information. The
>>non-computer users didn't read the manuals since I didn't tell them how
>>to turn their computers on. Management liked the manuals, but couldn't
>>understand why they were never used and why errors were still being made
>>by all staff.
>>Does anybody have an opinion about my audience?
>>3. Does anybody know if a technical training listserv exists? I have some
>>questions about training my users, but I don't think this listserv is the
>>correct forum.
>Eric J. Ray ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com
>TECHWR-L Listowner
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