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Old 08-22-2005, 04:29 PM   #1
MishaS
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Question Manual for e-book readers - what's your opinion?

Let's suppose you decide to have a look at a new e-book reader. This is a new program indeed and, surprise, surprise, you've also found a help file/document for this very new program.

What kind of information would you look for in the help? What do you think is most important to be described first, and, in general, what else do you think is important to be covered?
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Old 08-22-2005, 04:38 PM   #2
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I've always got an opinion (), so here's some ideas...

First and foremost, it should be easy to know where books go (internally/external card), with what formats and directories are allowed. Maybe even how to put the files there for beginners. And it should be explained how to open them and close them (to open another or go to a bookshelf screen).

Basic navigation options and font/background choices are also important. And, I guess, how to switch to and from landscape as well as to and from full screen mode. Oh yeah, and how to set a bookmark and go back to it.

Everything else seems to be detail info. But the worst experience is to try software and not even be able to determine what directories the content needs to go in, or how to get to it, or what types of files can be used.
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Old 08-22-2005, 06:36 PM   #3
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Agree with Bob. Would like to add minimum system requirements by platform, on the handheld/phone and computer. I've noticed that there are some folks who pick up older devices specifically for reading. Thanks for asking.
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Old 08-22-2005, 07:08 PM   #4
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I agree with my esteemed ( ) colleagues as well. The first part of the help should ensure the user knows exactly what he or she has purchased and it will run on their hardware. It should then outline how to install the software (if not already done of course), then a short tutorial on opening and navigating your first ebook. More detail, like fonts, margins, bookmarking and other fancy stuff can come after this, but making a good first impression with the reader software should be important, as this impression is often the one that sticks...

Craig.
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Old 08-22-2005, 07:26 PM   #5
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It is precisely this reason, I've put our project documentation into a wiki, so users can help us figure out what needs to be in it, what needs correction, what needs to get tossed, etc. Our FAQ is there also. If there's something they want in there, they add it. If something is out of place, they fix it. Of course, I'll go over everything in the end, but it encourages the community to help each other by providing high-quality documentation.

Once the docs are feature-complete, I'll roll them back up into a .pdb, PDF, and so on, and ship it with the next release.

I'm always looking for ideas on how to improve, and as anyone knows I'm no stranger to writing and maintaining lots and lots and lots of documentation in dozens of formats.
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Old 08-22-2005, 08:20 PM   #6
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What you should certainly NOT do is to put the only information about how to install the app in a help file that is not accessable until after you install the app. Believe it or not, I've encountered this more than once.

The Help file accessed from the app should not waste space detailing how to install. It should, however, explain the results of the install like where the app is and where its data files are.

It should also contain at least a brief explanation of what _EVERY_ feature in the application is and how to access it. It should be well indexed so that the information is findable. Don't just cover the main features. These are usually the easiest to figure out on your own. Its the odd, seldom used functions that are the ones that users go to the Help file for instructions.
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Old 08-23-2005, 02:26 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MishaS
What kind of information would you look for in the help?
... a link to MobileRead of course!
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Old 08-23-2005, 03:04 AM   #8
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I agree very much with dwig.You don't have a help file for the sake of having one. If you do make on, do it to help people. Think like the average book reader.

Explain what types of eBooks you can read. Perhaps also tell what types you -cannot- read (so people won't aquire the wrong ones). Tell them how to aquire them. How to get them on the device.
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Old 08-24-2005, 03:56 AM   #9
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This is first-hand experience. My sister finally gave in and decided to use a Pocket PC. She is going on vacation, so I managed to convince her of the benefits of ebooks and last night we sat down together so I could show her how MS Reader works. She is a beginner and already happy that she managed to remember the basic functions of her new gadget, so she refused to listen to anything beyond the MOST BASIC STEPS.

So: I would keep the real beginners in mind, and add a lot of screenshots to the documentation. Maybe a First-Steps guide would be good. Once users are ready, they can click on Advanced Features or something like that.

For that, I agree with everything that was said so far. I cannot get enough information, as long as it is well-organized and I don't lose the overview. For me, it is important to know if and how the program and the books can be installed/copied to the memory card, which file extensions can be read with the reader and where books can be downloaded/purchased (BTW, thank you Microsoft for leaving your German speaking customers out in the open without a single option to legally purchase ebooks for your format! and for leaving the old links to 2 ebookstores on your German MS Reader page one of which only sells Adobe books and the other one being a small publisher's website that does not sell any books at all - great way to piss off customers!).

That rant leads me to the next point: you got a reader you are selling to non-English speaking folks? Make sure there is content for them, and include a guide on converting your own books in the manual, please!!! I got so used to converting my own content that I don't think I could go with a reader that did not let me do that - for free.

Last edited by xendula; 08-24-2005 at 04:01 AM.
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