Dropdown menus and assumptions...

Subject: Dropdown menus and assumptions...
From: "Johnson, Dick D" <Dick -dot- Johnson2db8ef -at- PSS -dot- BOEING -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 13:55:36 -0700

Melonie's post triggered a remembrance on my part, which remains as good advice to this day, when the subject of assumptions is brought up and there is no apparent customer policy to cover it. In my first engineering writing course at Johns Hopkins University, about 35 years ago, Mr. Franko, the instructor, gave us this golden one-liner: "Assume your reader is intelligent, but uninformed." I've done this in dozens of situations with customer satisfaction in all cases. However, to be safe, ASK THE CUSTOMER!

BTW, does anyone out there remember Mr. Franko at Johns Hopkins?

Dick Johnson


Melonie R. Holliman wrote:

I was talking to a woman Saturday night who spent 2 hours trying to
explain the concept of double-click to a newbie. They are still out there.

The last job I had (up until November), I wrote for a software which would
be used by someone making minimum wage right off the street. Needless
to say, I had to explain quite a bit. I was still surprised when one of
asked me to explain scroll bars in the basic text. We created booklets
which were geared towards different level audiences (beginner, intermediate
and advanced).

I have just written a software manual designed for engineers working with
microprocessors. When I asked the application engineers if I could assume
our audience knew computers well, they said "don't bet on it". We decided to

take an intermediate approach (assumed they knew how to click, scroll, find
etc. but did not assume they knew a PC intimately).

I think there are still MANY newbies out there who are absolutely clueless

Melonie R. Holliman
Technical Writer
CPD Marketing
Advanced Micro Devices

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tom Johnson [SMTP:johnsont -at- STARCUTTER -dot- COM]
> Sent: Monday, June 21, 1999 3:24 PM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Re: Dropdown menu on a button
> My question is, do we have to be so careful to explain the intricacies of
> the interface these days? There are fewer and fewer novices these days. I
> don't think there is anyone who doesn't know somebody who could teach them
> the basics. Although, there was an ad in our local classifieds where
> someone was looking for some help to use an Apple II. :) It must have been
> a garage sale special. Can you still buy software for those?
> Back to my question. Can we get away with not covering some of the basics
> in our documentation now that computers are in almost every home? Just a
> few years ago, I would have said no, but now it seems like everyone knows
> something about them.

Richard D. Johnson Jr. (Dick)
Tech Writer, Software Documentation
425-234-7727, MS 6C-LU

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

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