Great Technical Writing The User Product Life Cycle A Documentation Tool

Great Technical Writing The User Product Life Cycle A Documentation Tool

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.


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.


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.

Great Technical Writing The User Product Life Cycle A Documentation Tool

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