Re: User Questionnaire

Subject: Re: User Questionnaire
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2001 19:27:01 -0700

Barbara Yanez wrote:

> Hello all
> I am doing a User Questionnaire so as to better meet the needs of our
> users. I am trying to gather info about (1) the users themselves (we
> recently acquired several new users and I am not very familiar with them -
> how they approach tasks, etc.) (2) what they need in terms of presentation
> of info in manuals - to make sure we are servicing their needs as best we
> can and (3) document delivery formats - which ones they like best, what they
> want to see more of, and (4) anything else that I have not thought of. If
> there is anyone out there in tech writer land who has done such a thing,
> can you post any ideas that you may have?

A few random thoughts, in no particular order:

- Plan your questions carefully, especially when trying to create a user
profile. Too many questionnaires ask routine questions that don't tell very much
that can help you. For example, are you concerned what country the users are
from? Their ages or gender? For marketing purposes, you might be, but don't
automatically assume that you are. People will only answer so many questions
before becoming bored, so don't waste their good will on questions that aren't
useful to you.

- Don't ask for items to be evaluated on a numerical scale. While this technique
may seem to be more objective or scientific, it doesn't usually give information
that can help you improve documentation or products. About the only time that
numerical scales are useful is when you're asking for priorities or for
generalized ratings.

- Always follow up a question with a request to explain or elaborate.

- Open-ended questions often provide the most informative feedback. However,
they are sometimes the least answered, so they need to be worded carefully.

- Ask about specific alternatives whenever possible. For example, "Do you prefer
FTP or scp for file transfers. Why?"

- Useful questions for things you haven't thought of: "Name 3 things you like
about the product;" "Name 3 things you dislike;" "Would you recommend the
product to a colleague? A new user? An expert user?"

- Don't make the questionnaire more than a page and a half or about a dozen
questions long. Anything else, and the number of completed and returned
questionnaires often falls off sharply.

- A draw or raffle sometimes results in more returned questionnaires, but make
the prize something reasonably substantial. If your budget can afford it, giving
all participants something like a T-shirt sometimes works well.

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177


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User Questionnaire: From: Barbara Yanez

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