Re: Instruction Manual

Posted by Mark Camp on Aug 12, 2004

(sorry, took me two tries to get that one about "sorry"...don't you know we boatbuilders are slow? :-)

Yeah, I know what you mean, I am building first boat too (a partial kit). And part of the challenge is not going to be addressed by the instructions, no matter how good. And of course, overcoming that challenge, the fear of the unknown, and barging ahead is part of the fun, anyway. "Boy, I know not to do THAT on my NEXT boat...!"

But somewhere there is a line between instructions that are of satsifactory quality and those that are not. I am sure that there are many cases where the instructions and plans could be improved without them going overboard and boring the second-time builder to death.

The Heathkit approach is what I would expect from any top vendor of complex do-it-yourself products. You can't sell good new boat designs without first testing them in the water. So how can you "build" good new instruction manuals without testing them on representative dumb customers like me?

But I also think a company and its customers should form sort of a collaborative relationship regarding continuous improvement of technical documentation AFTER product introduction. A company should regard the rookie customer as a once-in-a-lifetime resource for "how to make our manuals better": he will never again in his life as a customer be able to capture the ignorance he possesses right now as the flames begin to shoot from the epoxy cup and the primal scream begins to form in his throat.

Sorry (!) but untested instructions are a pet peeve from my work (software) and it spills over to this hobby. Experts tend to forget that their expertise is an impediment, not a virtue, that must be overcome when developing manuals for their customers.

In Response to: Re: Instruction Manual by George on Aug 11, 2004