Re: USA Today article demands printed documentation

Subject: Re: USA Today article demands printed documentation
From: Rebecca Merck <Rebecca -dot- Merck -at- ONESOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 16:05:59 -0500

Patrick said: There are many times when I cringe at the thought of
looking through some poorly written manual. Time is valuable and many
customers would rather forgo the TOC and welcome search capabilities and
speed of a browser or other online documentation. How about you? The
medium is not the issue here...it is the content! Was it well- written
and organized or not? This is not a job security issue it is one of
practicality. The need for both is apparent and our aim had better be to
please.....regardless of the medium!

** I hate the fact that the primary reason I hear (anecdotally from
colleages and friends) for not wanting to have to bother with the
documentation is that it's "poorly written." It's become a real
stereotype -- "Don't bother to read the manuals, they probably suck."
Sometimes it's true. But let's not forget that those same people are
probably writing the online help and online docs, so if the printed
manuals suck, then the online info also probably sucks.

** We did informal surveys of people in our office space of varying
levels of computer familiarity and varying age, and found informally
that there seems to be something to what Darren Barefoot said:

I give it about twenty-five or thirty years. By that time the first
truly online-literate generation (those, I figure, who are currently
under eighteen and have, in many cases, learned to read with a computer)
will be managing resources and making purchasing decisions.

** ... that those who "came of age" using manuals tend to still prefer
it, and those who "came of age" after online docs and internet access
were common would rather get their information digitally. I prefer to
be prepared for both, unless I know, absolutely, who is in my target
audience.

** Of course, as we're all saying, there are some reasons why digital is
a necessity, or why hardcopy is a necessity. As the USAToday article
pointed out -- if what your doing disables your computer, you've lost
that tool. Better have hardcopy. On the other hand, if you're in an
environment that is not conducive to paper -- a shoproom floor, for
example -- an online document is preferable.

** The USAToday article strikes me as a wakeup call to those who think
that the customer doesn't notice if you drop the documentation. Okay,
they notice. Perhaps the right way to handle it is to give them REALLY
poorly written docs for a couple of versions -- then the lack of
hardcopy docs might be construed as an improvement!

-Rebecca

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