Re: Write the User Guide First

Subject: Re: Write the User Guide First
From: Kelly Anderson <kellya -at- VIEWSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 20 May 1998 16:35:51 -0600

At 03:01 PM 5/8/98 , you wrote:
>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.
>I should point out that this paritcular company spent millions of dollars
>designing systems without bothering to consult users.

Being a programmer, I can see both sides of the story. The answer to this,
as to most interesting questions, is "it depends". What it depends on is
the purpose of the program and the understanding of the problem.

If the purpose of the program is to automate a previously manual activity
at a business and the problem is well understood then by all means, write
the user guide first and get input from users.

On the other hand, if the program is a leading edge researchish program,
there really isn't any way to do this. The programmers have no idea what's
going to come out the other end, and neither do the users.

That being said, communication between users and programmers is fairly
dismal in the industry as a whole. There is a LOT of room for improvement,
and I think tech writers are in a good position to influence this for the

At ViewSoft, engineers are in direct communication with users on an almost
daily basis. We couldn't get by without user input. However, this is
probably easier for us since our users are also programmers :-)

ViewSoft Internet - The fastest way to deploy C++ applications on the web.

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