Re: Looking for sample questions for a survey

Subject: Re: Looking for sample questions for a survey
From: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2000 05:40:48 -0700 (PDT)

--- Ted Rose <tedr -at- frontline-pcb -dot- com> wrote:
> I want to create a questionnaire for our technical support team
> to learn about their most frequently encountered problems and
> solutions. This information will help me understand
> how customers use our documentation. I am also looking for
> sample questions that ask how customers use documentation.
> Can  anyone recommend a web page or other source of such surveys,
> with sample questions I could adapt for my own purposes?

There are lots of surveys out there. Most products have survey cards
and many types of technical documentation do so also.

But, as has been pointed out in other posts, surveys are hard work.
Just taking sample questions that interest you, as the writer, will not
guarantee that you'll get the information you are seeking. It might be
quick and dirty to appropriate interesting questions developed by
others, but will it get you the information you seek? (Or are you just
trying to get an onerous task completed?)

Try talking to your users. Look at the documentation they're using. If
it's in books, look at some and observe the pattern of wear, if any.
Look for bookmarks and turned down pages. What information do they go
to a lot? Ask them why?

Go to where the work is being done and try to learn something of how
they're doing the job. See where the documentation fits in, if it fits
at all. I once made a field trip to a couple of places where our users
were using a very large library of documentation our company had
created over the years. (Different company than my current employer.)
One of the things I learned, that no survey would have told me, was
that they took the relevant sections out of half a dozen of the 20 or
so books in the library for that system and created their own quick
reference manual of information they needed routinely.

THAT was an eye-opener. That one day trip led to a major restructuring
of our documentation along lines MUCH more useful to the end-users. (Of
course it took time and there was a lot of resistance at headquarters
where "we've always written documentation this way" had to be overcome.

Tom Murrell
Senior Technical Writer
Alliance Data Systems
Columbus, Ohio
mailto:trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com

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