Re: User's wants v. needs...

Subject: Re: User's wants v. needs...
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 13:37:54 -0700

>In a recent message, Nancy Lynn Hayes writes:

>> I'll agree that user-oriented technical writing is the best idea, but in
>> many cases what the user needs isn't necessarily what the user wants.

and Charles Cantrell wrote:
>I think this is a dangerous proposition for a technical writer to take too far.

>If the writer does enough investigation of the users tasks, and the job
>they are responsible for, I think you will find that the user is very
>inclined to want what they need. They just don't want all the "fru-fru"
>that we sometimes drape around the essential core of information that is
>actually needed.
>Or, I could write the above paragraph this way.

>Inessential information in a manual obscures the important information. :-)

But... Another fact o' life we also must remember is that one user's
junk is another user's treasure -- or -- fixing a problem for one
user may create problems for another.

A while ago, I sent a manual out for beta and the return comments
from several users said "trash the overview at the front of the
book, it's useless!" Well, the Product Quality guy and a couple of
others were quick to jump all over these comments -- "We gotta
get rid of this stuff! The customers don't want it." But I've
been around the block a time or two, so I started calling some
of those users who had favorable reactions but didn't include many
specific comments. Almost to a person, their reactions were, "Oh!
No! *Don't* get rid of the overview -- that's the best/most
important part!"

What was that about pleasing all of the people some of the time????

Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com
-- The _Guide_ is definitive.
Reality is frequently inaccurate.

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