Make sure SmarterPeeps give you a discount on your SM subscription.. hehehe
1) Well first, lots of pictures / screenshots.
The PDF's listed above have no pictures in them (the online help does). Most people are visual learners and when they are trying to do something they do better when they can click and follow "how its supposed to look" in instructions. I have taught in classrooms for 15+ years (kids and adults) and very, very few of the people I have taught could just read something and then go do it. However if you draw them a picture (backed up with a good explanation) they get it pretty much the first time. Screen shots with circled call outs showing what items are, is good.
2) Real explanations. I hate user manuals and help information that is really no help. I know you have seen these too. For instance : A field or prompt might say "Select AutoMagic Blah Blah Mode"
Then the "help" information says "This is where you select AutoMagic Blah Blah mode"
No sh1t, wow, really ? How about an explanation of what the hell auto Blah Blah is, what it does and what impact it will have when i select it ?
One of my recent discoveries of this stupidity is FireFox and their pop up that asks "would you like to refresh firefox ?" The first time i clicked it i thought it meant i was clearing cache. What the prompt should have instead said was "would you like to trash all of your custom settings and screw up your browsers configuration ?" That would have been much more accurate to what happened.
3) Designed for old peeps and nooblets to understand. I see a lot of documentation that makes way too many assumptions about something while explaining the help. This is sort of like #2 above. #2 it assumes you already know what auto Blah Blah mode is. No, i don't know what it is, that is why i am looking for help. A lot of the younger crowd may be tech savy to some extent, however there are a lot of older people that are now starting to use computers, and a lot of people that have never used computers before or have expertise in a different area that are now having to learn how to do more on computers.. They are learning and don't understand some of the terminology and things we may take for granted. Any real help needs to explain things in a manner that someone that has never used it before can pick it up and go over it step by step and get it right the first time, without having to ask for tech interpreter. (reinforcing why pictures are so important, you see what the end results are supposed to look like). If you have ever worked for a company that has documented Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's) this is really close. "Here read this, then go do it.)
Another example. We design software that is used by non profit orgs to manage their day to day operations. The first shelter that started to use our software 10 years ago... we designed this awesome system and gave it to them to use.. We THEN found out that the only person that had ever used a computer before that day was the Executive Directors wife. None of the other staff even had an email account. The rest of the staff were total noobs in the most noobish sense of the word. Just teaching them how to double click something turned out to be a solid 8 minute task.(no, you cant move the mouse even a little between clicks. no, clicking harder does not make it go better. No, clicking both left and right buttons at the same time is not a double click. )
4) Ok, as far as smarter mail content, leave out anything to manage domains or accounts, or installation, etc, etc. This is end user 101 only. Even things like shared calendars and syncing with a mobile device are not likely on a single user account. Sync or getting email on a mobile device can be covered in an end section, appendix or separate manual.
5) Domain administration and managing user accounts can be a separate manual. People that will be managing others accounts generally know they will need that, and generally already know the basics. Putting that in an end user manual would confuse the end users and it provokes questions like, "When do i use this feature ?
6) Maybe a definition of terms up front ? And maybe some basic info on what smarter mail is and how it is differnt from Gmail or yahoooot.
7) Maybe something about creating folders and keeping organized. Like a "friends" folder then "bill", "sarah" and "zack" inside of the friends folder. Then maybe a "School" folder, and then "classes", "internship" and "chess club" or something as examples.
I think some examples of various things could be helpful too.
Anyway, what you think ?
www.HawaiianHope.org - Providing technology services to non profit organizations, homeless shelters, clean and sober houses and prisoner reentry programs. To date we have given away over 1,000 free computers.