"In-House User Documents" Series


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Benefits of Creating User Documents In-House


For small companies, creating their product's User Documentation in-house, provides benefits to the company, to (idle) staff, and to the product.  This article describes the benefits and some downsides of producing User Documents in-house.

Three Options

If you have no in-house writing staff you have three options:

1.  No User Document for the product.  This is NOT a valid option.  Every product needs User Documentation.  It completes your product package, and enhances the User's experience with your product.  Here are two examples of non-existent User Documentation:

How have you felt about products that came without User Documentation?  Were you at all confused about the product and getting the most from it?  User Documentation adds to the value of the product.  Let's look at how we can get it created.

2.  Use an outside writing service or consultant.  Technical writers may be an excellent choice to create your User Documentation.  However, there may be downsides to using them.

Using the outside writer will force you to batch your documentation changes, making the literature out of date.  (How many times have you seen product documentation that does not match the product?  This happens because the company was waiting for the next major upgrade to update the User Documentation.)

3.  Using idle employees in your company to create the User Documentation.  The remainder of this article will focus on this option.

Staffing Benefits

In most organizations, there is some staff down-time.  By assigning these staff to create User Documents you benefit from effective use of this down-time, and the employees benefit from experience in a new field.

These staffing benefits include:

Benefits to Your User Documents

If you have in-house writers (even if they are not formally trained as "technical writers") you can just say "Sue, could you or Tom update the document where the sign-in window is presented."  Much faster and more flexible then having to go to an outside source.  Sue and Tom have ownership of the document, and would work to improve it.  They would use software resources available in your organization.

The benefits of in-house writers to your User Documents include:

Downside of In-House Writing

The primary downsides of in-house User Document creation are the attitude and emotions of your newly-appointed writer.  These include:

You can reduce these negative emotions if you encourage and support your New Writer.

Support Your New Writers

It is unfair to assign a non-writer to create a User Document without supporting him/her.  You have to support your writer with:

Other articles in this series (see the links in the "Resources" or "About the Author" section of this article) present more information about supporting your New Writer.


Barry Millman, Ph.D., has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (1966, Carnegie Institute of Technology) and an M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Psychology (Human Information Processing, University of Calgary).  He has been a consultant for over 25 years, an instructor, course developer, and award-winning speaker.  For the past seven years he has been researching and creating resources to help organizations create great User Documents. 

Visit: http://www.greatuserdocs.com/ for resources to help you create the User Documents that your Product needs and your Users deserve.

Visit http://www.greatuserdocs.com/ReadingRoom.htm for more articles like this one.

You may copy and distribute this article freely.  However you must keep the entire article and Resources sections intact, with no changes, additions, or deletions.

Copyright 2007, Igetitnow! Training, Inc.