Software manuals are not the same as novels. Users do not start at the beginning and read right through to the end. They are invariably in a bad mood when they consult the help or the manual; they are in trouble, trying to perform a task and unable to do so. They will inevitably have tried all sorts of things before consulting the help.
It is essential that they can find the information they need and the answer to their problems.
- In designing the documentation I take into account the type of documentation (help, training, white paper, reference manual, ) and the type of reader (novice, advanced, administrative ...).
- I rely on my ability to put myself in the position of the user and to create the content that they need.
- I base the content on explaining tasks that the user has to perform.
- I enjoy the challenge of explaining complex concepts and procedures.
- "A picture can tell a thousand words" and I use graphical images whenever possible to explain abstract and complex concepts.
- I have used a variety of tools and am always willing to learn how to use new ones.
I take as much interest in generating the output as in creating the content. I am an enthusiastic advocate of XML based systems (DITA included) that allow the creation of different outputs from a single source document.
The structure and the content of the documentation depends on the deliverable output (online help, web pages, printed manual).
Usability of software and documentation is of paramount importance and an overriding interest of mine.