Re: Feedback please -- UK vs US manuals

Subject: Re: Feedback please -- UK vs US manuals
From: "Jim Snowden, Technical Writer" <writer -at- SAPPHIRE -dot- DEMON -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 1995 09:08:28 GMT

In your message dated Friday 28, July 1995 you wrote :
Hi I'm a tech. writer in the UK. I think your UK partners are not representative
of other software producers in the UK. A lot of UK users of software are now
very used to modern, "Microsoft" style manuals with plenty of pictures, and UK
software vendors are producing manuals to meet this requirement. Old fashioned
3-ring binders are definately out - unless it is for info that is very
frequently updated (>1/month), or for products with only a very very few users.
It sounds like your UK partners do not have any technical writer in-house to
advise them. Perhaps they are simply asking a contract writer to come in and
write to their spec? I'm sure if they asked most technical writers here in the
UK, they would have some questions about their proposed style.

Maybe one of the reaons they want to go for the 3 ring binders is apparent ease
of update and cost/speed of production. But we have just had an exercise here
getting costs in the UK for printing a set of manuals. Total page size is
c.1000, split over 6 manuals. All are to be perfect bound, colour covers, 9" x
7" size. We wanted pretty good quality output because we have lots of screen
shots. We found a couple of printers who could take postscript files (produced
from Word for Windows) and output them at 600 dpi on a Docutech printer.

Cost for the whole set on a run of just 100 copies was c.30 per set including
the binding.

This works out cheaper than if we copied the masters ourselves and put them in

Of course the perfect binding can't be updated with new pages. But the print
turn around time from us giving them the disks is quoted at 2-3 days to finished
manuals. And then can keep the files on disk to do on-demand printing. (And it
cuts down a great deal of headache and confusion and resultant cost to not have
to issue update pages!)

Jim Snowden

> Techwhirlers -

> we develop Unix software. Our U.K. partner also writes software using
> our toolset and framework. It's important that all our products have a
> strong family resemblance. Their software fits in OK, but the manuals...

> They favour what I regard as an old-fashioned, conservative look. 3-ring
> binders, full width of the page, high text/low graphics. I believe the
> U.S. style is to use more practical binding, wider margins, active white
> space, and more graphics and navigational aids.

> If true, these are just cultural differences, and not a matter of right
> or wrong. I would guess that many U.K. readers find U.S. manuals noisy
> and over-produced, and U.S. readers would find U.K. manuals dull and not
> inviting to read. As in most areas, Australia is somewhere in the middle.

Jim Snowden

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