RE: Just do it

Subject: RE: Just do it
From: "Michele Marques" <marquesm -at- autros -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2000 10:24:15 -0400





Someone (anonymously quote by Andrew) wrote:
>
> > Our first step in doing this is to get into our customers (actually
> > our users) minds. Ideally, we would like to visit our clients,
> interview
> > them, and observe their usage of our documentation; however, do to
> > budgetary constraints, this is not an answer. So . . . we have
> decided to
> > come up with an incredible survey/questionnaire for our clients to relay
> > their documentation wants, needs, requests, and opinions.
>

Andrew writes that most surveys are useless and that in-depth familiarity
with the subject matter will result in good documents being written.

While I do agree that most surveys are not terribly useful, I believe that
getting user feedback can be useful, if done properly, as your good
documentation may not be optimal for their needs (or for your reasons for
providing documentation).

Before starting some survey (or other form of getting information from
users), you should decide measurable goals for improving documentation. You
can then take baseline measurements against which you will try to improve
the documentation (or not, if these goals are already being met).

These goals could be:
(1) reduce calls to technical support
(2) 95% of users report they can install product in a "reasonable" amount
of time without calling technical support
(3) users are able to find appropriate "help" topics within 1 minute

If the first item was your goal, you might not have a formal "survey".
Instead, you might ask technical support to ask an additional question ("Did
you check the manual?") and to pass on logs which include whether the user
checked the manual, whether the answer was in the manual, whether the manual
was correct (the latter two could be checked by you), and the problem area.

This would tell you areas to improve the manual so that people could get the
answers from the manual instead of calling support. Or if the correct
answers are in the manuals, but the manuals are unused, you might need to
improve how people can locate the correct information quickly.

If the second item was your goal, you might include 2 questions on the
product registration card.... or as part of your online internet

registration wizard that gets fired up after installation.

If the third were your goal, you might want to record usability testing. If
you have usability testing (with end users) on your software, maybe the help
could be ready at this time - when they go into help, you time how long it
takes them to find the topic (or give up).

I'm sure there are other possible goals and ideas for gathering the
appropriate data.

--------------------------------------------
Michele Marques
Technical Writer,
Autros Healthcare Solutions
marquesm -at- autros -dot- com





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