Re: No one reads the manuals

Subject: Re: No one reads the manuals
From: Geoff Lane <geoff -at- GJCTECH -dot- FORCE9 -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 13:30:49 -0000

Suzanne Gerrior wrote:
I have searched the archives and not found the type of info that I'm looking
for. Can anyone tell me if they know "for a fact" that user's read the
documentation (skimming is included as reading). By this I mean have you
done a usability test, have you talked to customers. Does anyone have facts
that I can use to back up my belief that user's do read the manuals.

In a previous contract, I documented custom-engineered products from
drawings. That is, I never saw the finished article unless I went to a
customer's site. On one site visit, I introduced myself to the site
engineer. During a quick tour of the site, we visited their maintenance
shop. He apologised because 'my' manuals were *extremely* dog-eared and
covered in oily fingerprints. He couldn't understand why I was delighted!

My current project is to document a complex piece of software. We recently
distributed a beta version without documentation. Almost all beta sites
requested a copy of the documentation. We told them that the docs were
work-in-progress. They still wanted some docs *whatever* the current state
of completion. This tells me that, for this particular product, the users
rely on the documentation.


Geoff Lane
Cornwall, UK
geoff -at- gjctech -dot- force9 -dot- net

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