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Web Site Instruction Manuals

Some biographical info is first necessary to understand from what basis I am writing this. I am a graduate engineer with a BSEE degree and owned my first computer back in the early eighties, a VIC-20, at least 20 more computers since, and learned and wrote in three different programming languages, taught DOS and Microsoft windows at a local Community college. Obviously I'm not a young person so I have a lot of technical life experiences also.

It is with this background that I write these concerns about operating or use instructions provided for a user of most web sites or Program manuals. Reviewing hundreds of web sites, maybe a thousand websites over recent months, I have found few that are written or laid out in a logical manner for the uninitiated, or even those with the background I have indicated above, to be able to follow the instructions provided. I could write a technical manual that I could understand and follow with ease because I wrote it, but that doesn't mean that anyone trying to learn about the subject of the technical manual could with the same ease.

To digress a bit, at one time I owned some retail businesses and the best advice given to me was "Don't buy products that you like, but buy products that your customers would like". The same applies to any written instruction, don't write it so you understand it but write for those that will use it so they understand it.

Let's stick to web sites as this would apply to any instruction or operating manual. I developed a web site for a friend, before I published it I had her use all of the features that the web site provided to be sure that they worked for her and she could follow it without additional instruction. Every time I made an addition or change to the site I had her recheck it to make sure that it functioned as she expected. I have found many web sites that will give you instructions as to how to use a particular feature, but they don't tell you where to go on the web site to use the instruction. In many cases the web site developer has placed the "Where To" some place on the web site page but it was placed in such an illogical place on the page that you probably wouldn't find it.

I have written so many e-mails asking for clarification of an instruction that I couldn't even guess at how many I sent. Then when you do get a response to an e-mail you have to send another e-mail for clarification of the e-mail you received. I realize that the subject where dealing with is or can be complex but I think a better understanding by the developer for the user can be improved. I was beginning to think that my computer experience was too far back or as I grow older my ability to understand has deteriorated. I am convinced that that is not the case. The younger generations, as can be seen in the educational qualities of our schools today, are not learning the way the older generation were taught and learned. I may be alone in what I am experiencing but if not, hang in there you're not alone.

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About the Author

Paul Viverito, Lindas Florida Photos
118 rroyo Parkway
Ormond Beach, FL 32174

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