Thursday, 27 September 2007

Writing the Manual

I suppose this entry takes the thought processes from my earlier entry Black & White Computing a little further, but forgive me if I repeat myself slightly.

I've had the pleasure of a new PC on my desk and have spent much of the morning installing a well known security product. Let's call it "Not-On"...

Not-On comes with a huge box, a normal-sized CD and an A5 sized 48 page User Guide, 1 page of which is the title, 1 page the copyright notice, 1 page the contents, 1 page blank, 9 pages of guidance (2 of which help you to find help elsewhere), 12 pages about the support you can get from Not-On and their associates, 2/3 page about upgrades and subscriptions, 1 1/3 pages about worldwide support, 2 pages of index and 14 blank pages for you to make your own notes.

Nowhere in the 2 pages of the guidance that are devoted to installation is there a diagram of a screen shot. Nowhere does it say:

"The Not-On program will open and start to work before it has finished installing. It will recognise there are bits missing and initial tasks undone and therefore will open a warning page giving dire messages about the state of your machine's security"
I mean, come on! It's not hard is it? If this happens every time and I assume it must, then might it not be an idea for the installation manual to at least mention it?

Nick Langley, writing in Computer Weekly this week has an article headed "Technical writing provides career path with creativity" in which he says "Technical writers take complicated technical information and present it in a way that is understandable to users..."

Not at Not-On...

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