Documentation types -- what are the possibilities?

Subject: Documentation types -- what are the possibilities?
From: "Bobbie Dofflemyer" <bdofflem -at- MANU -dot- COM>
To: techwr-l
Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1999 4:41:28

Hi, everyone. I'm in the process of developing a documentation strategy for
a suite of products and my brain is turning to mush trying to come up with
a user-friendly, translation-friendly, maintenance-friendly documentation
set. I was hoping you could give me some input on the types of
documentation other tech writers produce. So, here are my questions:

What types of documentation/media do you use to present information and how
do you choose the most appropriate method? If I have a complex product that
I need to document -- one that involves a specific methodolgy and some
fairly elaborate processes in addition to the interface-driven procedures
-- where do I put the different types of information? Do I devote the
user's manual to conceptual information and provide procedural information
in the online help? Do I provide some sort of tutorial or demo that
illustrates the processes? Do I ditch the user's manual altogether
(managment's suggestion for less printed documentation) and develop an
online document that can provide the same information?

Basically, what are some alternatives to the typical user's
manual/reference manual/online help combination, and what do you consider
to be a good mix of documentation? I don't want to break up the information
so much that users won't know where to find anything, but at the same time
I think it's important to differentiate between the various types of
information (even if they are in the same document).

Also, how do you meet the mandate for more online documentation when you
truly feel that the information is best presented in hard copy? I know a
lot of this depends on my users and I don't want to start any print vs.
online debates; I'm just looking for ideas.

Please send your feedback to bdofflem -at- manu -dot- com -dot- Thanks!

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