Great Technical Writing The User-Product Life Cycle - A Documentation Tool by snoopdoggywuf

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									Title:
Great Technical Writing: The User-Product Life Cycle - A Documentation
Tool

Word Count:
925

Summary:
The User-Product Life Cycle (U-PLC) is a powerful tool for the User
Document writer. Use the U-PLC to generate the high-level topics for your
User Document.

THE USER-PRODUCT LIFE CYCLE (U-PLC)

Usually, when we think of a Product Life Cycle, we think in terms of the
development and production of the Product itself. When writing User
Documentation, consider the U-PLC to help you generate all the topics
necessary for a complete document. User Documentation should support y...


Keywords:
writing, user document, topics, user manual, how to write


Article Body:
The User-Product Life Cycle (U-PLC) is a powerful tool for the User
Document writer. Use the U-PLC to generate the high-level topics for your
User Document.

THE USER-PRODUCT LIFE CYCLE (U-PLC)

Usually, when we think of a Product Life Cycle, we think in terms of the
development and production of the Product itself. When writing User
Documentation, consider the U-PLC to help you generate all the topics
necessary for a complete document. User Documentation should support your
Users in all of their interactions with the product.

The User-Product Life Cycle refers to the full range of interactions
between the User and the Product itself. This is more than simply "how to
use the product." As you will see below, "Use the Product" is only one
stage in the U-PLC.

STAGES IN THE U-PLC

Here are the stages IN the U-PLC (assuming that the User as acquired the
Product):

-- U-P LC Stage: Transport the Product to its working location

-- U-P LC Stage: Unpack the Product

Transport and Unpacking of the product are listed here just for
completeness. These are currently displayed on the packaging itself,
usually in pictorial form, and do a good job.
-- U-P LC Stage: Overall knowledge about the Product.

This is information that is presented to the User early in the User
Documents.

Topics here include safety, legal, and disclaimers related to the
product.

The description of the product should indicate how the product may change
the way that the User currently does things. For example, an analog voice
recorder will require the User to listen to all the stored items to find
a particular one; a digital voice recorder will enable the User to
quickly jump from one message to another.

-- U-P LC Stage: Set up or Install the Product

* Environments

It is important for the writer to think of the various environments where
the product will exist. For example, how should a computer program be
installed in a Windows, Mac, or Linux environment?

"Environments" includes other things that the product must work with. For
example, how should a DVD player be installed in a system currently
composed of a TV and a VCR? How about installation to a TV & VCR system
where the TV has only one video input?

* User Capabilities.

The capabilities required for the User to set up the product are also
important. Since the assumptions related to the User for set up may be
different from the assumptions about the User in using the product, the
wise writer will present the skills (and perhaps regulations) needed to
set up the product. A section entitled "Can You Set Up This Product?"
will enable the User to make the decision about whether to set the
product up themselves, or find outside help.

For example, suppose the product is an electrical light dimmer that is
intended to replace the light switch in the User's home. Using the
product merely requires adjusting the dimmer's single control to set the
desired light level. Installing the product requires experience with home
electrical wiring--does the User have these capabilities?

Sometimes, the limitation may be legal. In some jurisdictions -- Quebec,
Canada, for example -- only qualified electricians are permitted to
install or modify electrical circuits in the home. Thus in Quebec, the
general User of the dimmer will not be able to (legally) install the
light dimmer.

-- U-P LC Stage: Use the Product

This component is the focus of most User Documentation. It should contain
at least these three sub-topics:
- Starting the product

- Actual Use of the product

For most products "Actual Use" is the central focus of the User Document.

Ideally, this should be divided into basic or common product functions,
and advanced functions. A good example is photo-editing software. Most
Users want to crop, rotate, and adjust the brightness and contrast of the
image. These are basic functions. More advanced functions might be
combining the parts of one picture with another.

- Shutting down the product

Is there any maintenance to be done at shut down? List it here and in the
"Maintain" section.

-- U-P LC Stage: Maintain the Product

Consider breaking this down into time periods, such as: after each use,
weekly, monthly, yearly, as applicable.

-- U-P LC Stage: Move the Product

For a computer software program, how the User should move the program and
its data to another computer; computer users often upgrade their computer
hardware. While it is often assumed that the User should re-install the
product on the new computer, there always is the question about moving
the data related to the product: where is it located, and how should it
be moved so the newly-installed program can recognize it on the new
computer?

For a physical product, are there any special considerations in moving
the Product to another location?

-- U-P LC Stage: Discard the Product or its By-Products

Here I would like to mention only selling the used product. It might be
wise to mention that by keeping the User Manual, the seller may find it
easier to sell, and possibly get a higher price, for the used product.

USING THE U-PLC IN YOUR WRITING

As you generate the topics for your User Document make sure that you keep
the U-PLC in mind. Ensure that you include topics in your User Document
Outline to assist your User in all phases of the U-PLC.

Great User Documents can assist in the UP-LC section that I did not
present here: acquisition of the product. Your marketing department may
be able to use your GREAT User Document as part of its marketing
campaign.

								
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