Re: There's more to it than grammar

Subject: Re: There's more to it than grammar
From: Damien Braniff <Damien_Braniff -at- PAC -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 08:47:12 +0000

Eric mentioned that he thought the "big picture" is sometimes neglected in
favour of a long-winded cover-all set of instructions. As as been said more
than once on this list it's all down to the audience. I agree that it can be
frustrating to have to plough through a lot of stuff that you feel you don't
really need but just because YOU don't doesn't mean that someone else doesn't.

We're currently in the process of sending out a questionnaire (to be used in
conjunction with site visits) to try and determine a "mean" level of user. The
problem we have is that we quite competent engineers (re hardware) who, when
they come for training, don't even know what a mouse is or how to use it (I kid
you not). On the other hand we have PC experts who find the first part of the
training (PC familiarisation) mind blowingly boring. With our large customers
we're trying to get them to separate the hardware and software installation and
assigning it to relevant people but the response is often "Well he's already on
site so he can do it..."

Currently we get around it (well sort of!) by producing some Quick Installation
Guides (which assume a much higher level of competence) which leaves out
"unncecessary steps". For example, it may say open the xxx file in the bin
directory on drive c, not open Explorer, click on C: etc. The use of
installation wizards can also take a lot of the donkey work out of the
installation and leave as little as possible for the installer to get wrong.

Currently help on a screen provides the "how to" information with links to
background information and other associated topics. A tree-like TOC (cna be
turned off) is also provided so that experienced users can scroll down the tree
and find relevant topics. We have also toyed with the idea of providing
different levels of help for the software. Users of the software are logged on
at different levels from guard (pretty basic) to system supervisor (highest).
User access roughly equates to system experience so we thought of providing
different entry points and browse sequences to the help (or even different help
files) depending on user level.

As in most cases there is no "ideal" solution and all we can do is the best in
the given circumstances and do what we can to improve things, giving the user
what they want/need. Hopefully the survey we're currently doing will help us to
better target the lit we provide.

Damien Branif
Technical Author
PAC International

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