When is just enough?

I’m currently scoping some work to provide a set of user guides for an application. The functionality is, mostly, split into two areas with one set for those administering the system and the other for those who use the system to complete their work.

Previously it would have been a matter of doing some task analysis, which would drive a list of topics, which would then be grouped sensibly, all the while keeping the audience of the information in mind. However, that tends to lead to an exhaustive list of topics, often leading to areas of the product that are little used.

To counteract that one thing I’ll be doing is initially limiting the scope to the production of conceptual information. Whilst some tasks will need a level of procedural steps, I’m more keen to get across the concepts and uses of the various parts of the product.

With this in mind I’m toying with the idea of using scenarios to drive the task analysis, taking the user through a few typical usage patterns and letting them learn the patterns of how the product works. It means that we are going to be relying on the design of our product (which is pretty good) to guide users appropriately through the application.

It’s a bit of a leap of faith, but is it enough? Time will tell!