Write the User Guide First

Subject: Write the User Guide First
From: Michael Blair <mjblair -at- TOTAL -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 17:01:14 -0400

I thought I'd just toss this out to see what happens.

About ten years ago I took a company sponsored human interface design
course a few years ago from an outfit called the Learning Tree or some
such thing. They guy giving the course was an ex-NASA type -- who, btw,
had some great war stories about the early days of the space program. One
of the first things he told his audience, exactly one of whom was a
technical writer, was that when designing a system that humans will use,
write the user guide first.

It made sense to me (as the sole tech writer), nor did it seem to be a
particularly radical idea, but the project managers, analysts and
programmers also taking the course were scandalized. How could you write
the user guide before you built the system?

I should point out that this paritcular company spent millions of dollars
designing systems without bothering to consult users.

Michael Blair
Blair Technical Communications Tel: (514) 989-8713
106 - 3500 Atwater Avenue Fax: (514) 989-7521
Montreal, Quebec CANADA H3H 1Y5 Email: mjblair -at- total -dot- net

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