Have You Covered Everything

As you have probably discovered, most low-ticket software has little or incomplete documentation. It isn't that that the manufacturer has left the manual out of the box; it's that the manual they packed is deficient. You might want to look up a particular problem and type in all the possible prompt words you can think of, but nothing appears. Then when you look down the topic list, you find that either the subject has been totally overlooked or is described in terms that users have never used before.

Some programmers invent their own vocabulary. If your program is at all serious, the best way to avoid ending up with a dysfunctional manual and Help system is to find a highly literate user to write them. This relieves the programmers of tasks they rarely relish and allows them to concentrate on what they can do best: get the software out on time. It also introduces an end user's point of view at an early enough stage to be constructive. An outsider is more likely to spot missing sections and steer programmers toward terms that minimize the educational burden and therefore the launch.

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