Re: New TECHWR-L Poll Question

Subject: Re: New TECHWR-L Poll Question
From: "Tim Altom" <taltom -at- simplywritten -dot- com>
To: "TechDoc List" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2000 15:00:10 -0500

> --- Dan Emory <danemory -at- primenet -dot- com> wrote:
> > Real usability testing would invalidate 90% of the on-line help
> > documents produced since 1995.

To which Tom Murrell replied:

> So, your point would be?
> It's so easy to be a bomb-thrower on the list, isn't it? What is your
> recommendation for solving the problem of invalid usability tests? Give
> What constructive thing can you add to the discussion?
> I do so love to engage experts in constructive dialog.

And to which I now say...

Granted that Dan's response may seem terse, but I can see that large-scale
usability testing might tend to put a lot of long-time practitioners into a
bad light. Too many in our industry have produced dreck over a long period
of time. If usability studies were performed on their supposedly superlative
work and made it appear not only wanting, but downright shabby, jobs could
be lost as a result.

I see several reasons why clients shortchange usability work, and most of
them relate back to their maturity levels. Level 1s and 2s have little
patience for planning and feedback. It's the 3s and above who believe in any
kind of feedback, and they're rather rare in the software world, which is
where most of us earn our bread.

It's also true that many tech writers labor in a tiny little cabin apart
from the rest of the organization, and that any usability initiatives must
originate from them, because the other departments won't think of it first.
Never having done usability, and having unjustified faith in their own
heuristics, many tech writers suffer from terrible hubris. If they have
neither passion in their work, nor fear of being wrong, then they have no
motivation to institute feedback.

Tim Altom
Simply Written, Inc.
Featuring FrameMaker and the Clustar(TM) System
"Better communication is a service to mankind."
Check our Web site for the upcoming Clustar class info

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