Re: User documentation: tip sheets

Subject: Re: User documentation: tip sheets
From: David Demyan <concord -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 17 May 1995 10:42:43 -0700

Peggy Thompson wrote:

> Our customer is nudging us away from the traditional user manual
> (which we have steadily whittled down to a high-points,
> quick-find, topical approach) to an even leaner approach: "cheat
> sheets," wherein a single, frequently used procedure is printed
> on card stock.

> So enamoured is our customer with this approach, that we are
> beginning to see a proliferation of these cards to the point
> you'd think a user would be driven nuts shuffling through cards.

In my experience, users do not have the foggiest notion of how
they can best get the information they need to perform the job.
They will request whatever *quick-and-dirty* approach they think
will cost the least. The logic goes something like: "Well, we are
paying $10 (or whatever) per page now, and we can get away with
just a tip sheet, which cuts the volume down from 5000 pages to
five, so we'll save a bundle."

In fact, if it hasn't already happened, the customer will begin
to complain about the proliferation of cards and how hard it is
to find the right one when they need information.

Customers need to face the truth: you need both the details and
the summary and you need them at different times for different
reasons. I wonder about the logic of your following solution, tho:

> We think procedures commonly performed by most users should be
> in the user guide and that tip sheets should be reserved for
> procedures performed uncommonly or only by a small group of
> users.

I would recommend the opposite approach in most cases: the user's
guide gives ALL the details for all users; the quick reference cards
give a subset of information from the guide -- the most commonly
used information needed by most readers (for a quick reference when
the user is unlikely to want to wade through all of the details in
the guive).

I hope this doesn't confuse your issue. Regards,

Dave Demyan.

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