Marketing our documentation

Subject: Marketing our documentation
From: howard <hb -at- PENCIL -dot- U-NET -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 1998 19:27:41 +0000

Hi all,

I've just been considering various issues concerning documentation and this
struck me as a potential approach. If it's been tried already I'm sorry for
wasting your time but none of the folks I've asked in the UK have any
memories of a similar drive so I'm sending it anyway.

C&C most welcome.


Raising the profile of documentation

It has been argued that documentation is often seen as added-on, at best
subsidiary, to products and various strategies having been offered as to
how its profile can be raised. Some of these have been employed with
considerable success given the recent advances in Graphical User Interface
(GUI) technology and the chip-design developments that have made them

However, these extensively documented products are of a "virtual" nature.
That is, they are software, intangible, instruction sets for a physical
machine. Very often the software is marketed in tangible form through the
medium of magazine adverts using photo's--for example, by the imposition of
the box-design or the inclusion of the box itself either in the main shot
or in close proximity to the particular bundle being offered, giving the
product an implied tangibility by association with its packaging (even
though it could be argued that the box and disks are not "the product" per
se, and is perhaps indicative of the logic by which documentation is
sometimes classified in relation to the product itself).

However, the product documentation itself can be argued to be part of the
product beyond all doubt in many cases, as few commercial or productive
software tools--ie, not games--are without some form of online
documentation for which the manuals provide an alternative method of
accessing overlapping information. By taking this view, online and
paper-based documentation are inextricably linked and, indeed, mutually
indispensible in some foreseeable circumstances.

Bearing this in mind, I built a mental picture of an advert which included
the manuals, and came to the conclusion that it may be off-putting to some
customers to think they will have considerable reading to do, but to others
the documentation may be a strong selling-point.

Also, the issue of how to represent the scope and nature of the online
documentation itself came to mind. I know there are mixed feelings about
Wizards amongst both writers and audiences, and these can't be easily
represented by screen captures anyway--not on their own to achieve the end
result I'd like--but I wondered if anyone had tried compiling, say, a
videotape (or DVD) which could be included in a display-type ad in its
packaging as a tangible information-product specifically designed to
educate end-users in how to get the best out of the documentation set
(correspondingly explicity titled with a cover design that reinforces
this), particularly given that users new to computers are often familiar
with the basics (ie, pressing 'play') of VCR operation.

The fact that it is a video medium suggests that a significant, but not
overpowering, amount of information is available independently of the
machine and product itself (well to me anyway).

Any thoughts and/or experiences anyone?


managAr parChonmorliez? SilateezntelizSane...readRlips - deliriupS
"Olninezapa! telimuapan..." (stufftie gong-hall y8a9m) hint: Anagram
H Billington - BA Technical Communication

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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