What are the best methods to reduce user guides for end users?

By dak1010 ·
I support a Sales Team that complains that documentation is to robust for them. They want me to condense it. A) this document is 90 pages long and B) they are usually handed to me .pdf format....any suggestions on how to condese these to make them more meaningful to end-uesrs?

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Do you go printed or optical?

by OldER Mycroft In reply to What are the best methods ...

If your present user guides are printed, a revamp of the format would be your first point of consideration: if you have 90 pages of A5 then you have between 2 and 6 pages of wasted blanks.

A revision to a size of A4 would make for easier reading, better layout, and reduction of wasted space.

However, in most cases these days, operating manuals tend to be presented in .pdf format on optical media - CDs or DVDs and accompany the software on the same discs.

The sales team would not complain about carrying CDs as support material.

If you want to remain with the printed form I would recommend employing the services of a technical sub-editor. He/she would probably surprise you how your "robust" documentation could be slimmed down both in copy content and boosted in presentation qualities.

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I get both printed and optical (digial) forms

by dak1010 In reply to Do you go printed or opti ...

Thanks for the advice. I copied everything to the clipboard with out the images and then did an Autosummerize in Word. They complain about having to read it

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Nobody reads manuals...

by JamesRL In reply to What are the best methods ...

And I say this to our own tech writer....

Trying converting the documents into online context sensitive help with something like Robohelp.


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First: Understand the Context

by Wayne M. In reply to What are the best methods ...

I agree that 90 pages seems way too long for something used by a sales team. I recommend that you try to understand the context for the document and then try to format it in a "storyboard" style.

The first thing that needs to be done is to understand what the documentation is to be used for. Is it pre-sales information, sales demonstrations guidelines, post-sales support? Talk to the sales people and see what they want the documentation for. Also, listen to see if there might be multiple intended uses - it is usually more effective to create multiple single purpose doucments than to create a one size fits all document. It may also be helpful to go on a couple of sales calls - real life is better than a thousand explanations.

You should now have an idea of the length of document desired by the sales team - I would guess 1, 2, 4, or 8 - 10 pages depending upon the target use. I would then go with a storyboard approach and select one diagram (1/4 page to full page) for every two pages of target size. Layout the diagrams in sequence and write an action caption for each one. An action caption is a 2-3 sentence description of why the picture is signficant. Your reader should be able to understand your message from just looking at the picutres and reading the action captions. Now write (or copy) the descriptive text for each picture adhering to page boundaries.

This approach will usually produce a good quality document. First focus on your audience (the sales teams) needs, then create a highly visual document that is 25% - 50% pictures.

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